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Marketing/PR the new face of marketing


This column begins a monthly series for Canadian Fundraiser on Marketing/PR for non-profits. I believe that Marketing/PR is one of the most exciting trends to emerge in the marketing field over the past ten years.  It combines the best marketing/sales elements of a marketing program (market research, defining and prioritizing markets, targeting key markets, pitching key messages, and evaluation) with the best educational/informational aspects of a public relations program.

Marketing/PR offers a variety of cost-effective tools that can easily be implemented into a long-term strategy and plan. These include information sessions, testimonial brochures, print and e-mail newsletters, Internet sites, on-line media rooms, media-friendly events, speaking engagements, networking events, trade and consumer shows, sponsorship opportunities, and media campaigns. This column will provide readers with the tools they need to research, create, and evaluate a long-term Marketing/PR program.

Why has Marketing/PR moved to the forefront of the marketing mix? First, today’s consumers want to work with organizations that provide education and information, take a stand on environmental and industry issues, get involved in local and national issues, show caring and concern, and contribute to their community. All of these goals can be attained and communicated through a successful Marketing/PR program.

In the past, many organizations have invested all of their marketing dollars in advertising, direct mail, and telemarketing. Today, organizations of all sizes realize that advertising alone will not necessarily provide the credibility, reputation, and relationships they want to develop with current and potential markets, media, and the local, national, or international community. In fact, studies show that potential clients need to hear about you five to seven times before they take action – another good reason to combine a variety of tools into a Marketing/PR program.

Where to start
This month, I will examine the first steps in organizing a Marketing/PR program for your organization or company: setting goals; defining, understanding, and prioritizing your markets; and conducting market research.

Step #1: Set goals – what do you want to achieve?
Here are 17 good reasons to develop a Marketing/PR program (and 17 ways to measure and evaluate your program against your goals at the end of the year).

To generate financial support for your organization.
To raise funds.
To attract new employees, clients, investors, members, donors, shareholders, sponsors and volunteers.
To become a well-known expert in your industry.
To build credibility and awareness for your company or organization.
To project a warm, human feeling for your organization.
To educate the public on choosing, buying and using your programs and services.
To motivate your audiences to take action: attend an event, register for a program, visit your website, or volunteer.
To position your spokesperson (and organization) as the expert in your industry – the one the media call for a quote.
To launch or test-market a new idea, product or program.
To diversify your organization.
To evaluate public attitudes.
To build a new, favourable image.
To generate leads.
To dispel misconceptions and overcome resistance.
To generate goodwill, prestige, trust, and approval from key markets.
To help insulate your organization during a crisis.
To support other aspects of the marketing program, such as advertising and sales promotion.
Ultimately, your objective will be to communicate your organization’s key messages to your target audiences. To ensure that your communication is effective, you’ll need to start by defining your key audiences – both in terms of who they are and what they want or need.

Step #2: Define, understand and prioritize your key audiences
Your organization communicates with a variety of internal and external audiences on an on-going basis. Defining which are the most important is essential when creating a Marketing/ PR program that will most efficiently communicate your messages to them.
Keep in mind, too, that you may have different target audiences during different phases of your Marketing/PR campaign. For example, during Phase 1, your target audiences could include employees, current and past clients, companies within your industry, and trade media. Phase 2 could involve potential clients, the local community, and local media. Phase 3 could expand into national and international companies and media. 

Finding your audiences
Who are your key audiences? Decide which of the following groups are the most important markets for your organization right now: employees/staff, current clients, past clients, potential clients, volunteers, suppliers, colleagues, competitors, shareholders or members, donors/funders, referral partners, your board of directors, influencers, associations, government agencies, sponsors, retailers, visitors/tourists, educators or students, multicultural programs, special interest groups, media, the local community, national and international markets, and the Internet community.
Once your key audiences have been identified, the next phase of your research focuses on understanding and prioritizing each audience – who they are (for example, age, income, occupation, family life cycle and other relevant demographic information), where they are (geographic location), and what their attitudes are towards your organization and industry.

Step #3: Conduct research: where are you now?   
Once you have defined your key audiences, it is important to understand their attitudes towards your organization.
There are two types of market research -primary andsecondary.
Primary research refers to information collected specifically for your organization. It draws upon a variety of tools, including one-on-one interviews, questionnaires, focus groups, and comment cards.

Five of the most effective primary research tools are:

  • One-on-one interviews. This is one of the best way to obtain information directly related to your organization. Ask potential clients what they know about your programs and services and find out how often they would attend your programs and events and use your services. Ask current clients what they liked (or disliked) about your programs and services.
  • Surveys. These often involve telephone or personal interviews with prepared questions. Limit your survey to five or six key questions, for best results.
  • Questionnaires. Internet-based questionnaires are very effective because they are easy to complete and return by e-mail.
  • Comment cards. Provide a comment card to your clients/donors at the end of each project or event. Improvements and changes can be made based on the responses. Comment cards offer general information that can be used for more formalized studies.
    Focus groups. Groups of eight to ten people are invited to attend a facilitated session to assess your organization’s strengths and weaknesses, uncover problems and misconceptions, and discuss programs and services. Focus groups can include current clients, potential and past customers, donors and volunteers. Create a list of questions for the focus group session.
  • Secondary Research involves information obtained through outside sources, such as the Internet, Statistics Canada, and industry magazines and books. It provides you with information on trends, problems, and issues in your industry, but it may not relate directly to your own organization. For example, trends that may true in other parts of Canada may not relate to your organization in Barrie, Ontario.
    The best market research results are obtained through a combination of primary and secondary research tools. The results of your marketing research should lead directly into your marketing strategy and plan.

In addition to primary and secondary research tools, there are a number of other elements to examine during the research phase of your Marketing/PR program:

  1. Review all of the information you currently have, including advertising, recent editorial coverage, brochures and flyers, Internet site copy, annual reports, company policies, mission statement, testimonials and letters of complaint.
  2. Analyze your organization’s current status, practices and policies, goals and objectives, problems and issues, achievements and awards, and communication patterns.
  3. Examine your competitors’ marketing programs, including their branding, visual image, brochures, newsletters, annual reports, advertising, media campaigns, editorial coverage, Internet websites, and show booths.
  4. Find out about associations and organizations within your sector. Attend their meetings, read their newsletters, obtain copies of sector reports, and network with other association members. This is an excellent way to build strategic alliances with companies or organizations that provide services and programs that complement your own.
  5. Review websites from other organizations in your sector from all over the world. Pay attention to the language they use to describe their programs and services.

By conducting research before you launch a Marketing/PR campaign, you will gain an understanding of your audiences and develop effective key messages for your campaign. These tools are also useful for conducting annual assessments of your organization’s reputation or changes to that reputation resulting from a campaign.

Next month: how to create a long-term Marketing/PR strategy for your organization.

Susan Sommers founded her own public relations firm, susan sommers + associates, in 1982. Since then, she has created marketing and media relations programs for hundreds of non-profit organizations across Canada. She has designed and delivered Key-to-the Sector Workshops in marketing and media workshops and taught marketing and media relations courses through Continuing Studies, University of Toronto. She is also a popular Keynote Speaker and workshop facilitator for  conferences and workshops. Her latest book, Building Media Relationships, Second Edition( Oxford University Press, 2008) is available through or

Visit Susan’s website at or e-mail her at