Top Ten PR Secrets for Non-Profits: # 8 Ask the Questions, So What?, Who Cares?

#8 Answer the Questions: So What? and Who Cares?

I remember an alternately cruel and humorous shout that we used in high school (although I don’t recall exactly how we used it) to put down another group. We yelled in succession: So what? Who cares?

It’s direct and, if used unwisely—as many things are in the high school years—it can be hurtful. In public relations, these are two of your most important questions (and questions it would be good you’d ask yourself before someone like your PR counsel has to).

The first, So What?, goes to the questions of relevance, impact, scale, and consequence. Does what you are doing matter not only to you but also to observers, reporters, officials, or recipients? And will they say so? Perhaps you just don’t know, but you believe what you are doing or contending for is vitally important. That’s fine. Just be sure you ask yourself the question honestly, and if others are slow in coming to the same conclusion you do, know that public mention of your effort may also be slow, and your communications hill steeper.

The second question: Who Cares? isn’t an issue of crass heartlessness, but a measure of whether or not media gatekeepers will care about your story or you mission. Although newsworthiness is a subjective judgment, there are guidelines that most will follow.

To be newsworthy a story usually needs at least a few of these characteristics: proximity, impact, drama, uniqueness, significance, timing, human interest, scandal, or celebrity. Work hard to present your story in these terms—or lower your expectations if it’s an important piece of news, but sadly dull.

With that in perspective, conduct strong programs, make a difference in people’s lives, and change your corner of the world. Eventually, that will make news. And it’s the beginning of good public relations.

–Jim Jewell

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About Jim Jewell

I am a writer and consultant on faith and public life, active for many years in management and communications in the evangelical community. I now work as the director of the nonprofit practice at The Valcort Group (www.valcort.com). Everything on this blog, however, is my personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Valcort.
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