PR for Non-Profits Aiding in Relief Efforts Halfway Around the World
by Barb Harris and Sharon Kreher, teamworks communication management
Typhoon Haiyan (known in the Philippines as Yolanda), slammed through several Filipino islands recently, leaving behind it mass destruction, death, and people without food, shelter and water. Government agencies and nonprofit organizations all over the world began mobilizing to help.
One of these nonprofits is our client Feed My Starving Children (FMSC). This organization provides meals for starving and malnourished people all over the world. In the Philippines, we work with mission partners that have a great reach over the 7,500 islands of the Philippines. Due to FMSC’s ongoing relationship with these partners, we already had food on the ground and they were able to start distributing food to those in need.
On Monday, November 11, FMSC began a coordinated communication effort. As soon as they had heard from several of their mission partners about what the initial need would be for more meals, an e-blast was sent to FMSC’s strong base of thousands of donors and volunteers. They also posted information, requests for donations, and requests for volunteers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media channels.
In the three markets where FMSC has packing sites – Minneapolis/St. Paul, Chicagoland and metro Phoenix, the PR team set to work making the global story local. We outreached to the local media to share how local residents could help people half a world away. We asked them to share our website to donate, stressing that FMSC, through our mission partners, were already on the ground helping people. We invited them to our packing sites so they could see first-hand the volunteers packing meals that could be headed to the Philippines.
In Phoenix, the media was quick to respond. Given that many of the meals volunteers pack at the local site go to the Philippines (12 million last year alone), this story “brought it home” for them. TV crews came (all at the same time!) to film a room full of fourth graders and senior citizens packing meals that would be headed to the storm-ravaged areas. The FOX-affiliate story ended up running not only in Phoenix, but in Greensboro, North Carolina and Philadelphia as well.
What was the impact? Donations came in at record numbers, and volunteer sign-ups increased quickly. But the story of a local Phoenix couple really illustrated how local media can bring a global story home:
Carlo and his wife saw the FOX broadcast and drove to the Phoenix packing site the next morning to see if they could volunteer. You see, their families are in Tacloban, the city hardest hit by the typhoon, and this was the most direct way they could see to help feed their family and friends who are facing an enormous crisis.
Natural disasters and crises happen all the time, all over the world. When working with nonprofits, a skilled PR person must know well what the organization does and recognize how a global story could be local. They must be able to react quickly and reach the media with a solid story full of facts and visuals. They must help fulfill the media’s need to tell the global story in a manner that allows local audiences a way to relate and respond to it. Having the ability to tap experienced PR people in key local markets (like our national network of PR veterans in markets across the country) allows our clients to quickly and effectively make their story, even if it’s a global story, local.