How does the community that surrounds your business view your business — or how does your business interact with the community that is around it? Community relations is about more than converting people into customers. It’s about forging strong relationships or partnerships with non-profit groups or community organizations to show that you are interested in more than simply selling products or services; your company is also interested in improving the world around it.
Developing relationships with local community organizations is important for several reasons, not the least of which is that it reflects well on your business and can lead to more customers. How your company goes about fostering such relationships will help increase its profile and create a positive image for it.
Find a Good Match
Ideally, creating a partnership or relationship with a community group will be an organic process, or at least, it should look like it. The organizations your company partners with should make sense from the point of view of the public. For example, if you run an entertainment law firm, you might consider partnering with a non-profit performing arts organization that supports artists in the early stage of their careers; your firm could provide pro bono legal services to artists who might have questions about copyright or contracts. If you own a restaurant, you might strike up a relationship with a local food bank or soup kitchen.
Having a full understanding of the needs of the community or organization, what it has experienced in the past, and what it hopes to gain from a partnership are all critical to the success of your relationship. Is there are a demand in the community for what your partnership will bring about? Has the community organization tried to work with businesses in the past, only to not have the relationship work out? Have clear objectives about what you each hope to accomplish and possible pitfalls to avoid.
Find Ways to Get Involved
Once you’ve found an organization to partner with, you want to look for ways to bring the partnership to life. The options available range from staging the occasional event, such as a charity auction to raise money for the group, to ongoing programs, such as having your employees volunteer for a certain number of hours each week with your partner organizations.
If your company offers a service, your team could donate them to a group in need. A company in the food industry, for example, could prepare or serve meals at a local shelter or soup kitchen. If your business is the environmental or construction space, your employees could help plant a community garden or volunteer with a local rehab project.
Tell the World
Your company’s partnership with a community organization can be purely altruistic. But, developing community partnerships is also an ideal opportunity for improving your business’ public image and can be a strategic PR move.
People want to work with companies or give their business to companies that are committed to the neighborhoods or areas they serve and that go out of their way to somehow become part of the larger community. If your business has successfully partnered with a local group, there’s no reason not to let the public know about that partnership. Use the standard methods of PR, such as news releases, press conferences, and coverage in local media, to spread the word of the project.
Building strong community relations and creating a PR strategy to promote those relationships will not only raise awareness about your brand in the eyes of the public. It can also pave the way for future partnerships or projects, so that your business can continue to give back to those around it.