By Kim Sammons
Within life, there are all kinds of relationships. Business relationships are no different – it takes all kinds. This is an especially important concept to remember during the planning phase when you’ll assess and decide (at least initially) how you’ll gauge if your program was a success.
During the planning stages, I’ve heard many clients talk about the importance of including media partners, but struggle with the idea of how to measure return on the investment (ROI).
Media Partnerships Can Feed the Fund-Raising Pipeline
When people think about strategies that leverage media as a channel to reach a target audience, the first tactics that often come to mind are “advertising” and “media relations”. For advertising, of course, money is exchanged – an organization pays the media outlet for a specific placement and the message is guaranteed. For media relations – no money exchanges hands, and the results are not guaranteed – you might get your story published and if you do, hopefully, all the “right” messages are represented.
But what if you could create a media partnership where no money is exchanged and your message was more often than not, just as you’d hoped? And what if this partnership could help you raise funds for your mission?
Public Relations and Fundraising: We come from different planets
In Public Relations, the discipline I’ve spent a good part of my career working in, media relations activities are often defined (by management) as the “soft”, “awareness-building” work where it’s hard to quantify the return on investment (ROI). On the other end is direct marketing (i.e. fundraising for the purposes of this article), which is a more scientific discipline based on numbers and averages, and links directly to bringing revenue into the organization.
I’m not trying to suggest that direct marketing doesn’t require any creativity or that media relations doesn’t have any science to it, but generally, we come from two different schools of thought. Certainly, we come from two different planets when it comes to defining ROI. So, who ever thought, we would find a way to work together?!
Can’t We All Get Along?: We can and did…
While working at the Arthritis Foundation’s national office, an interesting connection occurred between media relations and fund-raising goals.
As a health charity we developed and promoted a variety of consumer-facing materials, as well as provided comment on industry happenings. We were in touch with media daily.
One year, when we released the annual Drug Guide (a review of the latest medications for those living with the most common forms of arthritis), our phones and website “rang off the hook.” We could track the timing of contacts back to media that were running our story. In one example, we figured out that around 45,000 contacts came from an article published by Prevention magazine. This was important information.
To receive the guide by mail, which most requested, you provided your mailing address, which placed you in our database (assuming they didn’t opt out). This database is the same database used to raise funds. As you might suspect, this concept was pretty exciting to our fund-raising team – growing the fund-raising database by @45,000 people within a few weeks!
Exploring a Partnership: A different cause alliance approach
With this knowledge we contacted Prevention magazine to propose a yearlong partnership strategy – clearly arthritis was a topic their readers were interested in learning more about. This wasn’t something either of us had ever done before, and it wasn’t exactly cause marketing, but it did align a corporation with a non-profit organization, supporting both businesses’ goals
After a few meetings, we inked the deal: each month, Prevention magazine worked with us to develop an arthritis story. The partnership featured the Arthritis Foundation’s logo, a health-information product (book, pamphlet, etc.), as well as the 800 number and website where readers could order the product.
The ROI: Just what we had hoped for
Through our partnership, we grew our database, provided valuable information to help people with arthritis live better, as well as increased readership and reader satisfaction for Prevention. By leveraging mutually-strong brands, we helped to drive mission-focused business objectives for both organizations.
In a time when the term “return on investment” is represented in nearly every marketing-communications initiative – from cause marketing to media relations and certainly with fundraising – keep in mind that media relations is an important tactic that can identify new constituents, helping to build your database and your bottom line.
NOTE: Approaching media with data to show that their readers/viewers are interested in information from your organization is critical! As the diversity in media outlets and methods consumers use to receive information continues to grow, media are continuously focused on what kind of information will generate more readers/viewers. If you have information that can enlighten them, they will be interested in talking. Remember: more readers/viewers = ability to raise ad rates = media outlet’s bottom line.