Community Relations is the driving soul of an organization – it is not an afterthought or reactive endeavor but a strategic undertaking for all companies, big or small.
When a business commits to community relations as part of its core business strategy, it helps attract and retain top employees, positions itself positively among customers and improves market and brand position.
Positive, proactive connections to the community can translate into a boost to the bottom line.
Here are 10 steps to Community Relations best practices:
1) Create a written vision statement, which acknowledges the importance of community issues, and the direct relationship they have on your company’s future success.
2) Mainstream this vision statement as foundation throughout the organization.
3) The business leader, boss or CEO must continually communicate and act on the company’s commitment through emails, presentations, websites and collateral to employees and also take a personal leadership role in the community.
4) The relationship-building activities, community programs, charitable benefits and plans must be uniquely tailored to the company. Focus on the company’s goals; unique products, services and core competencies; and the access to resources, such as money, people, products and services.
5) The vision statement and the organizational strategy must become a key part of the business culture. This means a commitment beyond words, one that is actually used to guide business decisions.
6) The business should create a structure to allow for the implementation, including ways to involve a cross section of managers and employees in the plan – like a matching program.
7) The company must allocate resources, including naming a senior-level community relations director or a person in charge of the endeavor, to implement the strategy and community relations must become the responsibility of the entire management team and not just the community relations staff.
8) The business must establish policies and procedures for implementing the strategy. Volunteering should be rewarded in some way.
9) Training activities should be established to make sure the community relations strategies are implemented regularly.
10) Evaluate internal audits to monitor the strategy and its progress.
Community relations projects can be as simple as matching funds donated to charitable organizations or as complex as setting up your own organization for a cause.
Businesses can start simple by inviting a charity to set up a giving tree for the holiday season. Another simple start is donate a percentage of sales from a certain product towards a community or charitable organization it chooses.
Inform the community of what your plans are, as a business you have social influence to make a difference and your efforts will be rewarded.
Edan Gelt, CMD, MBA
Marketing Strategist and Child Life Volunteer
Edan Gelt is an award winning, innovative, energetic, highly creative and consumer-centric marketing leader with successful results in increasing sales and traffic.
Her experience includes business-to-business and consumer marketing, advertising, media-buying, branding, e-marketing, public and community relations, strategy creation/implementation, budgeting, direct marketing, grand openings, trade shows, grass-roots marketing initiatives and special event planning.