Power in Community: Get Public Relations Results through Strategic Alliances

Whether you represent a non-profit or corporate client, there is an excellent opportunity for positive public relations in strategic sponsorships. The Philadelphia Public Relations Association (PPRA) recently gathered a panel of corporate decisionmakers to share what works, what doesn’t, and why they value this kind of partnership.

Altruism. Yes, and…

For these organizations, seeking strategic alliances serves their goal of making their communities better places to live and work. While that’s lovely and altruistic, it’s also good for business because they know that their needs – access to a robust workforce and customer base – are best served in a thriving community.

Hugh McStravick, vice president of client and community relations for PNC, shared that while they are one of the largest banks in the United States, they still take a hyperlocal approach, focusing on creating partnerships that also help PNC achieve their business objectives. A prime example is their current partnership with the Please Touch Museum, an interactive museum for children based in Philadelphia, where PNC is the presenting sponsor of a new permanent exhibit, Cents and Sensibility Fun with Money.

Paula McDermott, vice president of integrated marketing for television affiliate 6abc, affirmed this business-focused philanthropy with 6abc’s approach to evaluating media sponsorship requests. They look at it from the position of what they need to achieve. Their annual sponsorship of Musikfest, one of the largest music festivals in the nation taking place over ten days in the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania, made sense due to the station’s desire to be competitive in this particular coverage area. From their taking ownership of Philadelphia’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1986 to their 2019 partnership with Independence Blue Cross and Philadelphia’s Center City District for the “Deck the Hall” holiday light installation, 6abc’s perspective is that it is important to give back to the community it serves.

Amplifying the Impact of a Sponsorship:

Saxby’s is a hospitality company whose website states their mission is to “make life better” using “coffee as a vehicle to make an impact on the community.”

Grace Manning, manager of social impact for Saxby’s, shared that they very rarely agree to sponsorships where they are merely donating money. Their weekly huddle with their PR firm includes a conversation about upcoming events and potential partnerships. With 23 cafes and a 20-person team working out of their Philadelphia headquarters, they take more of a grassroots approach to their PR and marketing.

One successful tactic has been to host fundraising events for community partners in their office space. These community partners are non-profits strategically selected by Saxby’s to align with their brand and business goals. In 2018 Saxby’s had 4500 people come through their space – learning about their brand, hearing their story –because of these events.

Expand Thought Leadership.

Dina Silver Pokedoff, APR, director of brand and communication for Saint-Gobain North America, advised that they seek deeper relationships that can grow and scale. Saint-Gobain North America views strategic partnerships as an opportunity for storytelling and establishing thought leadership in the sustainable building materials market.  An example of this is their relationship with YouthBuild USA, where Saint-Gobain North America plays an integral part in helping unemployed youth gain green construction skills through their donation of money, expertise, materials, and employee volunteers.

Perfecting the Ask

The best approach is to be clear on your mission and vision how that ties in with the mission and vision of the organization.

If you receive a response that your idea is not a good fit, listen. Do not continue to ask.

Be clear and specific with your request. Are you seeking money? Help raising awareness? Or both?

Research the mission and history of the organization.

Instead of approaching the same organization again and again for separate events, make one request for a number of events.

Do your homework, take your time, and make your request. It truly is all about building relationships.

This post was written by Michelle Kane, Solo PR Pro Premium Member and Head Honcho of Voice Matters, LLC . Michelle has over 20 years' experience in communications management, writing, public relations, administration, and broadcasting.