Today’s interview is with Mathilde Duval, who has been Communications, Marketing and Public Relations Officer with BNP Philanthropic Performance since January 2022. Following a five‑year program of study at a prestigious school of business administration in Paris, Mathilde completed a degree at McGill University in Montréal with a double major in public relations and communications management. Mathilde’s intensive training equips her to offer organizations advice on media and public relations and, in particular, to show why public relations are important.

Media and Public Relations

How do media and public relations work?

Demystifying media and public relations, Mathilde points out that any organization can develop, improve, focus and bring to bear all its internal and external relations.

An important concept in media and public relations is the two-way symmetrical model of communication, based on establishing and maintaining relationships of transparency and trust: in other words, sound, sustainable connections. Mathilde points out that, to set up and develop these connections, public relations officers rely on their knowledge of media and public relations as well as their understanding of the philanthropic sector. In addition, a sense of ethics is crucial in fostering these relationships and sustaining philanthropic giving.

Media relations and public relations: What's the difference?

Mathilde explains the distinction. Media relations are relations specifically with news outlets (print, television, radio and electronic media). Public relations are relations with all stakeholders in an organization: internal relations, with board members, employees and volunteers; and external relations, with donors, interest groups, governments, competitors, and the wider community. A stakeholder is anyone with a direct or indirect connection to the organization and its cause.

The overall purposes of media and public relations are to expand an organization, raise its profile, and generate donations that will keep it healthy for a long time.

Even if yours is a small organization, why should it care about media and public relations?

Every organization has a stake in media and public relations. Every organization has stakeholders with whom it needs to keep in touch. Because these relations are essential to the organization’s growth, development and staying power, they need intentional maintenance and management.

Why should your organization set up a public relations strategy?

Not sure yet? Here are some convincing points.

A media and public relations strategy allows an organization:

  • to ensure positive local, regional and even provincial media coverage
  • to raise its profile and polish its image
  • to create and enhance its relations with stakeholders including the media, donors, governments and the wider community
  • to foster loyalty among its donors and interest groups
  • to extend its outreach to beneficiaries
  • to make it easier to attract and retain employees.

Just like businesses, not-for-profit organizations need to think about their media and public relations, which can have far‑ranging positive spinoff effects.

What are the main steps in setting up a media and public relations strategy?

The RACE formula, developed in 1982, outlines the main steps in setting up a media and public relations strategy.

1. Research

  • Start by taking stock of your organization: its strengths and areas for improvement, as well as its competitors. This step lets you understand your environment and start thinking about future messages.

  • Determine whether the project you are considering calls for a media and public relations strategy. Even the most modest idea is important and can have great positive potential. Don’t ignore any possibility that could enhance the image of your organization and its cause.

  • Identify target groups, messages and means of communication. Target groups will each have different needs and expectations, and will each call for different styles and approaches. Paying attention to this fact will allow you to avoid strategic errors and adverse outcomes. Knowing your audiences allows you to tailor your messages and, most importantly, how and how often to reach out to them in building stable, productive relationships.

2. Action and planning

The strategic second step lets your organization set the objectives and assess the feasibility of the project. After completing step one, you will need to set SMART objectives: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time‑bound. Using this formula will give your organization a clear, level‑headed estimate of the project’s potential for success. 

3. Communication and relationship building

The third step moves from planning to taking action. Depending on your organization’s target groups, determine what message, style and means (such as mail, email, media releases or social media) will reach them. An email message is different from a social media post. Your organization’s ultimate goal is to create mutually beneficial relationships with its audiences.

4. Evaluation

Lastly, after fine‑tuning actions and fostering connections, you can identify your organization’s results using key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs can be considered under five headings:

  • Engagement: for example, you have more subscribers, comments, likes or shares on social media, or your audience members forward your media releases and articles more often
  • Profile: for example, you have more media coverage or a larger audience
  • Acquisition: for example, you have more partners or influencers who back your organization and its development
  • Satisfaction: for example, your audience opens your emails more often or makes more positive comments
  • Media coverage: for example, more appropriate media coverage lets people know about your organization and allows it to build more sound, stable relationships.

Tips from Mathilde

Why not give your organization the advantage of a media and public relations strategy that will boost its visibility, reach more donors in Quebec and all of Canada, generate more donations, and ensure a more stable future?

To get started, simply:

  • draw up a list of local and regional media, which are essential in promoting philanthropy
  • develop a social media strategy with a style that suits your organization, and a schedule of postings that will promote your cause by interacting with your community and spotlighting local and regional influencers
  • design events that will bring people together, such as happy hours, garage sales, online sessions and workshops
  • create content including newsletters and media releases that will raise your profile and keep you connected to your donors and other stakeholders
  • build partnerships and alliances with related organizations that are sympathetic to your cause
  • if possible, identify influencers who might agree to be honorary patrons and speak on behalf of your organization
  • consider co-marketing, in which two organizations work together for the same cause, sharing information and audiences and thus broadening their outreach
  • maximize positive contacts with the media by sharing your organization’s latest news, developments and initiatives.

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