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The Importance of Public Relations for a Charity: How ellenor Engages with its Audience – and Why It’s So Vital

Whenever a brand, individual, or organisation is in the public eye, Public Relations (PR) is going to come into play. PR is how these small businesses, public figures, and national organisations contribute to the conversation – how they talk back to their audience, and communicate their project and purpose.

And, in a world increasingly dominated by image, perceptions, and reputation, PR’s importance is continuing to grow.

However, there’s one sphere in which the importance of good PR is often overlooked yet is perhaps even more vital for success than it is for the commercial world – the non-profit sector. For charities, PR typically sits under the marketing umbrella; as such, it’s vital for supporting a non-profit’s marketing and income generation initiatives, as well as raising public awareness and engaging donors and volunteers.

Unlike their for-profit counterparts, charities rely almost exclusively on the generosity of the local community. For instance, ellenor must generate around £7 million each year to operate.

With supporters, donors, and volunteers providing their time, money, and skills to help ellenor raise this, the charity must ensure that every penny spent on marketing – or, in essence, all the money that’s not going directly to the care it provides – is scrutinised and accounted for. To demonstrate its integrity to the community, a charity must fulfil a two-pronged purpose: establishing its need for funds, whilst also being transparent about how they’re being used.

Here’s where PR comes in.

PR, at its core, refers to the set of strategies and tools a charity uses to influence public perceptions about it. It’s the way a nonprofit organisation speaks to its audience, presents its brand, and raises awareness around its services to the public. It’s about mitigating risk, managing reputation, and finding ever more effective ways of reaching – and making an impact on – the community.

With so many charities now leveraging a similar arsenal of tactics to engage donors – leaflet-dropping, bucket-shaking, door-knocking – PR can provide a crucial point of difference. If, that is, it’s done well.

For ellenor, PR, is also key for securing partnerships, as well as generating the funding it needs to continue its work with the life limited patients – and their families – that rely on it. It’s not about simply sharing what the charity does, but shouting about the real, tangible changes ellenor’s work brings – namely, helping local people and their families meet the challenges of life limiting illness head on.

So what does PR at ellenor look like in practice?

Firstly, it’s about utilising a wide array of channels to connect with the wide range of diverse demographics ellenor services within the Kent and Bexley communities. After all, ellenor – eschewing the common misconception that hospice care is ‘just for old people’ – serves babies, children, and adults of all ages.

These channels of communication include paid advertising (such as pay-per-click campaigns on search engines), email newsletters, direct mail promotions, and utilising various social media platforms to connect with ellenor’s audience. The charity also uses content marketing – such as news articles and case studies – to grow its organic supporter base, in addition to publishing search engine optimized (SEO) content to attract fresh interest.

The cultural and socio-economic makeup of ellenor’s local community also reflects this diversity. Religiously, Sikhs make up over 9% of the population, while, ethnically, the area is a melting point of people from black, white, Arab, and Asian backgrounds. This, of course, means that ellenor’s PR and core messaging needs to not only resonate with people of all ages and occupations, but those of all codes, creeds, and cultures, too.

One example of a PR strategy ellenor utilises to reach a younger audience is working with local music and talent agency GTown Talents. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, several rappers from the group recorded a song expressing what hospice care meant to them. More recently, GTown Talents worked with us to produce a modern, rap-infused rendition of ‘Silent Night’.

Our PR strategy is also comprised of maintaining relationships with prominent public figures. Good Morning Britain’s Charlotte Hawkins has been a patron since 2009. On top of this, we must ensure that it’s PR strategy communicates its niche as a profoundly local entity. Limitations on finances and resources mean that it can’t compete with larger, national charitable organisations. So to carve out support and convey its unique identity to supporters, ellenor’s PR team must harness the power of storytelling – constructing a narrative to help explain ellenor’s role within the the community.

Helping this is the fact that – due to the nature of the service we provide – ellenor has directly touched countless lives within its locale. Gravesend-born influencer Millie Gooch – writer and founder of the Sober Girl Society – has had family members who’ve received care and support from ellenor first-hand. Millie channelled these personal motivations, sharing the formulas behind some of her most popular non-alcoholic cocktails with our audience to support our digital advent calendar in 2021.

Another part of our strongly local PR thrust involves sharing the stories of the patients and families that have benefited directly from ellenor’s care with the public. This may take the form of case studies; of interviews with these patients or their loved ones – that shine a light on their struggles, their sacrifices, and their successes. 

As an example, take the story of how ellenor helped turn the bedroom of Star Wars-obsessed West Kingsdown teen Troy – a young man living with spinal muscular atrophy – into a mural based on the popular sci-fi film series. Or the article about how puppetry and play therapy helped the bereaved children of the Williams family deal with the loss of their father.

By publicising these stories through press releases and on its social channels – then outreaching them to local, regional, and national media outlets – we are able to drum up crucial awareness about what it does, why it does it, and who it benefits. But, vitally, it also allows the public to form those all-important connections with the patients and families ellenor supports, as well as its staff.

We learn about Emma, Troy’s carer; about her background, and her motivations for working in hospice care. We cheer Troy on, and marvel at the lightsaber duel unfolding on his bedroom wall. We empathise with the plight of the Williams family, and marvel at the skill of the play therapists that helped free them from the vice-like grip of grief.

But most importantly, we feel. We forge a bond with our patients, families, and staff: whether they’re the ones battling a life limiting illness themselves, or the ones walking them – and their loved ones – through the most testing time of their lives. We connect with them all; their plights, their journeys, and their unbelievable bravery – and we remember their incredible, life-affirming stories long after we’ve finished reading. 

That’s what PR is.