Rants N Raves: Making community a client

I recently attended a professional development luncheon, and the topic was community public relations and branding. The speaker passed out a “quiz” to each of us. On it were 13 city taglines and 13 city names. The exercise was to match the tagline with the city, which were from all across the U.S. and Canada. Of course, I matched my city – Gainesville, Florida – with its tagline, “Every Path Starts with Passion,” immediately. Then I sat and stared at the page, wondering if I could get a few more correct. “Take a Ride.” Nope. “Surprisingly Unexpected.” No idea.

I didn’t get any correct other than my own city, but that’s not the point. The exercise made me think more about community and what I can do to be more involved. I know my city’s tagline, but do I know about all of the different initiatives and programs to which I could help contribute? As public relations practitioners, we often get caught up in what we have going on with our own clients – and rightly so – and sometimes overlook what’s going on right down the street.

What if we treated community as a client? I’m not suggesting there aren’t PR pros who are giving back and getting involved, but I think there’s always more that we can be doing. We are the perfect people to use our talents to give back and make a difference.

Donate your services

The first example that pops into my mind is solo PR pro Heather Whaling and her “Geben Gives” campaign. She set up a poll several months back where her readers could pick a non-profit for her to provide her services to gratis. This was not only a great way to involve her online community but an awesome way to pay it forward.

Go beyond PR

You don’t have to give back in terms of your talents as a public relations practitioner. You can do anything: collect food for a food bank, help build a house with Habitat for Humanity, visit patients at a nursing home. As communicators, most of us have the natural talent of being able to relate to different types of people, so interacting with people in our community through volunteering is perfect activity.  Dedicate a day every month or two to be active and get involved in whatever cause you feel you can positively impact.

Listen and connect

The nature of our profession makes our networks, online and in person, vast. It’s not hard to hear or read about non-profits, for example, that are looking for some type of service or donation. Chances are we might know someone who could help in one way or another, so we should go that extra mile to help make the connection if we can. Simple things go such a long way and are appreciated more than we may know.

It’s not about knowing our community’s tagline, although we should, but it’s about being a part of our communities and taking the time to make a difference. Take a break from planning a campaign for a client. Put the social media strategizing on hold for a few minutes. Make community a client.

On another note: if you want to take the city tagline quiz and see if you fare better than I did, let me know, and I’ll send it to you. J

Lindsey Robertson works in public relations and marketing at the University of Florida in Gainesville. She was previously a public relations coordinator at a not-for-profit hospice. Having earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Florida, she is a Gator through and through. Lindsey is actively involved in the Florida Public Relations Association. A newlywed, she enjoys spending time with her husband and three cats and has a passion, outside of public relations and communications, for fashion, travel and reality TV.

Note: Photo credit of Sifah, FlickR Creative Commons.

2 comments
Lindsey Robertson
Lindsey Robertson

Heather,

Thanks so much for the comment! You are totally right. And your 'Geben Gives' initiative was so inspiring to me, so I hope more PR pros are encouraged to get involved in their communities and treat them like they treat their business clients.

Lindsey@LindsTR

Heather Whaling
Heather Whaling

Lindsey, this is such a great post (and not just because Geben Gives gets a shoutout!). :) I think as PR people, we are so focused on helping our clients that we forget to treat ourselves as clients. How many times have we done research for a client to identify cause-marketing opportunities, boards to join, or potential sponsorship opportunities? Likewise, we should go through a similar process for ourselves to find ways to get involved in our own communities and give back what we can. That doesn't mean we have to always do it for a "business" purpose -- but because it's just the right thing to do.

Thanks again for including Geben Gives! :)

Heather@prTini