I’m writing a second blog today to celebrate the Class of 2013. As I finish my third year of full-time teaching at Hofstra, I’ve gotten to know many of my students very well, working closely with them on projects, internships, and the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter. I’m going to miss my students whom I can now call my friends and colleagues, and I truly hope they stay in touch through the social media platforms that allow us to communicate through time and distance.
A special congratulations to just a few of the graduating students with whom I’ve been closest: Shirley Huyhua, Erin Starke, Vania Andre, Ty Hardamon, Lauren Katz, Jenny Zheng, the two Nicoles (B and C), Chloe Lambros, Jeena Liriano, Kristen Flotteron, Emily Crist, and of course, Sophie Krall and Sarah Travaglini. I’m sure I’m leaving many out, but be assured that I care for every one of you and wish you great happiness in your lives.
Time magazine’s headline last week stated that “Milennials are lazy, entitles narcissists” but added the subhead, “Why they’ll save us all.” Joel Stein’s cover article says, “…milennials are nice…(they are) much more accepting of differences, not just among gays, women and minorities but in everyone.” He concludes, “They’re earnest and optimistic. They embrace the system. They are pragmatic idealists, tinkerers more than dreamers, life hackers…They want new experiences, which are more important than material goods.”
I have met some wonderful, hard-working, caring, determined, and smart students. They are now the Class of 2013. I’m so proud of them and they should be proud of themselves. You did it! You’re a college graduate! Now go out there and rock the Public Relations Nation!
In the fall of 2012 I repeated a survey of Long Island’s nonprofit organizations that I had done in 2011. The survey’s purpose was to learn how nonprofits are handling public relations duties and what kind of resources they were devoting to PR. The results of the first survey were not surprising, and put numbers to what public relations practitioners have anecdotally known all along: nonprofits struggle to get their messages out because they don’t have the budgets to fully engage trained, professional PR staff or consultants. The numbers were pretty disheartening.
There’s better news this year. Although their plans are modest, the same nonprofit organizations say they will devote more staff and resources to public relations efforts in 2013. Of 125 respondents answering the recent survey, 17% said they were “probably” or “definitely” more likely to increase their public relations staffs within the next 12 months, compared to just over 11% who said the same in the survey a year ago. The number of nonprofits stating they would not hire PR people this year decreased by 10%.
And while in 2011 the overwhelming majority of respondents (87%) said they would not increase their public relations budget, that number dropped to 80% in the 2012 survey, a minor but encouraging improvement. One significant increase noted in the survey was the amount of training PR staff, volunteers and interns receive from the nonprofit organizations. More than half (52%) of the respondents said they provide training, up from only 25% in last year’s survey. According to the new survey, 25% of Long Island’s nonprofits have at least one full-time staff member devoted to public relations, with most PR functions being conducted by part-time staff, volunteers and interns.
Maybe these better numbers are the result of an improving economy. And while there’s no reason to celebrate these upticks just yet, it’s good to see some positive changes, however slight. They mean better messaging for nonprofits, hopefully leading to improved success in fulfilling their important missions. It could also possibly mean more jobs for public relations professionals — and especially for new and recent college graduates. Your thoughts?
P.S. Many thanks to Hofstra students Vania Andre, Sophie Krall, Abby Littleton and Xavier Lofton for their help with the survey.
This week my numbers became faces. Fifty people came to Hofstra to attend my conference titled, “PR on a Shoestring Budget for Nonprofits” which was designed to offer real help to organizations who are often unsure about how to “do” public relations. These folks were from many of the same nonprofits who responded to my survey of Long Island nonprofits last year. Fifty-eight percent said they devote less than 2% of their budget to public relations and marketing, 70% have no full-time staff member handling PR, nearly all PR functions are grouped with other tasks, and little or no training is given to the staff and volunteers who do the PR work.
My goal, with grant support from the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, was to provide the basics to these nonprofits, which are clearly struggling to get their messages to their audiences. We kept our three workshop sessions simple. “Social Media vs. Traditional Media was presented by PR pros Debra Scala-Giokas of Certilman Balin and Donna Rivera-Downey of Girl Scouts of Nassau County;”Writing for Public Relations” was “taught” by future Hofstra adjunct professor David Norman of Kitchen Public Relations and me; and “Pitching the Media” was given by current Hofstra Adjunct Professor Laurie Bloom of Rivkin Radler and David Chauvin of Zimmerman/Edelson Public Relations. Our keynote speaker was Carl Corry, who runs Newsday Online. And assisting us were student volunteers Sophie Krall, Abby Littleton, Marilyn Oliver, and graduate assistant Vania Andre.
The attendees’ appreciation for the program was heartfelt. We received numerous accolades for the conference content and even more for staging it at all. There’s a real hunger out there for help, and public relations professionals should be providing these nonprofits with pro bono services and guidance as often as they can.
Getting messages out among all the media clutter is not easy. So I was kinda proud of myself this week. It felt good to lend a hand to people who need much-needed help. My colleagues and I made a lot of people happy–and a little smarter. And after my next survey numbers are published in early 2013, I’m planning to do this again. Your thoughts?
I’m using this week’s blog to announce the results of a survey I conducted of 160 Long Island nonprofit organizations to determine how they “do” PR. The survey proves what we’ve anecdotally known: Nonprofits understand the value of good public relations, but few have the resources for staff or tools get their messages to their publics.
No matter how small or large these organizations are, nonprofits typically devote less than 5% percent of their budgets to public relations campaigns and staffing, according to the respondents. And due to ever-increasing challenges and competition for funding, the overwhelming majority of them (87%) say they will not be increasing PR staff or budget in 2012. Just 29% of the nonprofits surveyed have at least one full-time public relations professional on staff, and only 25% of full- or part-time staff receive any PR training.
Because of tight budgets, nonprofits are depending upon staff and volunteers to multitask, often combining their public relations responsibilities with others including marketing (69%), fundraising (69%), event planning (67%), advertising (60%), and/or additional administrative duties (65%). Of those surveyed, half responded that they use volunteers for public relations work all or part of the time, and 21% say they have college interns handling some PR duties. Sixty-seven percent (67%) of respondents said they devote less than five hours to pitching stories to reporters each week; 64% report spending under 10 hours a week preparing or creating promotional materials; and 64% said they spend less than five hours updating social media profiles and posting relevant content weekly.
Qualifications and training requirements for handling public relations functions at nonprofits are mixed, according to the survey. Only 36% of those doing PR functions are required to have a college degree in public relations or a related field, and just 40% of those hired are expected to have some prior experience in PR. You have to question the effectiveness of their efforts if so few of them have a PR background before coming into the job.
My friend Ken Cerini, partner of Cerini & Associates, LLP, an accounting firm in Bohemia, N.Y. that specializes in the nonprofit sector told me, “In a climate where the nonprofit sector has been hit hard with negative press and changes in regulations, now is the time for nonprofits to make their voices heard—and PR is extremely important in this process. As a result, nonprofits need to consider how to effectively utilize the various channels, both traditional and social, to get their message out.”
Sadly, Long Island’s nonprofits lack the tools and expertise they need to “do” PR right. Despite this, more than two-thirds of the respondents believe that their public relations efforts are helping their organizations’ missions. This may be true, but imagine how much more effective they’d be with the right staff and tools.
So, after seeing their struggles in numbers, how can we help these nonprofits? I have plans which I’ll share here in the near future, but I’d like to hear from you. Your thoughts?
(A total of 160 Long Island-based nonprofits were surveyed online between October 27 and December 17, 2011, and also person-to-person at two major Long Island events: the Fair Media Council’s “Connection Day” on October 27 and the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ “Philanthropy Day” on November 18. Hofstra students Vania Andre, who is a wonderful research assistant, plus Lauren Katz, Christopher Scheben and Alexis Sibilio, were a tremendous help to me and I thank them!)