Nonprofits offer a lesson in doing more with less

About 300,000 mass layoffs a month have left the remaining PR professionals in a precarious position.

About 300,000 mass layoffs a month have left the remaining PR professionals in a precarious position. For many, the agency budget has shrunk; one person is doing the job of three; spokespeople have left the company; and it often feels like everyone has pushed PR aside.

The result is that we're floundering to stay afloat and what used to be a bold and aggressive proactive PR program is now a grinding wheel of press releases.

If this is you, you are not alone.

In the current economic context, we'll all need to scale down our efforts like a simmering sauce - allowing the excess water to boil off as things heat up.

In the process we'll lose PR staples that we thought we could never leave behind. But many nonprofits have been doing great without them all along.

I recently worked with a nonprofit that produced a report which was later covered in Fortune, San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, Channel 2 News, and most of the technology trades without breaking the modest agency budget.

The story was not a hard sell to the media and the messaging of the news articles supported our goals. But the most important takeaway was how much we achieved with minimal resources.

Here's how a nonprofit brought their saucy PR efforts to a boil:

Strategy: In the panic of trying to achieve so much with so little, strategic messaging and storytelling can often whither. Spending the time to do upfront research and create compelling stories will save you time-- and make your efforts more effective in the long run.

Target, target, target: Most industries have a handful of people that are truly important. Focus on continuing to give them the royal treatment.

Briefing sheets: Formatting, reviewing, and editing can bog you down. Everything the spokesperson really needs to know can be captured in a paragraph or two.

Reporting: Detailed reports and coverage analysis might impress some, but they don't achieve business results. Cut some reports, shrink others.

A recent Gartner report described “the axe,” a metaphor for how companies needing to make sudden and drastic cost-cutting measures are lopping off parts of their organization that only debilitate the company's ability to survive.

Focus on making the right cuts. Many processes that seem inseparable from PR are more expendable than you would think.

David King is a director of special projects at Gutenberg Communications.

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