Pro bono work should not be left to the intern

Most PR agencies pride themselves on the amount they put back into the community through pro bono work, but they must ensure their efforts do not stray into being counterproductive.

Most PR agencies pride themselves on the amount they put back into the community through pro bono work, but they must ensure their efforts do not stray into being counterproductive.

Signing up to a pro bono initiative, glorying in the positive PR around it, and then allocating a few interns or junior executives to the project can actually do more harm than good to the organization you are “helping.”

But the best pro bono work can genuinely make a difference, and these are the initiatives PRWeek will feature in our new Pro Bono Campaign of the Month, which we launched this week in conjunction with PR agency Edelman.

As Edelman president and CEO Richard Edelman says in a video shot to accompany the launch: “The advertising industry has historically done a great job in promoting itself through the Ad Council. The PR industry is doing just as much good work, but it gets no credit for it, because we don't tell the stories of what we're doing.”

Edelman adds that his most senior people actually want to get involved in pro bono campaigns, because it raises their profile in the community and allows them to try out new types of work. As an inherently social mechanism, he believes PR can especially help NGOs recognize the potential of marketing to really make a difference.

The first campaign profiled is an Edelman one that highlights the work and objectives of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, but the initiative is open to all agencies and organizations and will build into a database of best practice for pro bono PR.

Anyone who wants to propose a campaign for consideration should send their pitch to probono@prweek.com.

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