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The Prospective Client asked: What do you think about sponsoring events as a public relations strategy?

The Consultant replied:  Like everything else, it comes down to expectations: if you’re looking for a bright line to ROI, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons, and you’re likely to be disappointed.

Whether it’s called corporate citizenship or cause marketing, the practice of underwriting activities for non-profits has morphed into an often-ugly cousin of product placement in recent years. Companies write checks to organizations for no reason other than because they want the publicity — and it backfires. Non-profits accept checks from shaky or shady corporations — and have to undertake damage control when the truth comes out.

Once upon a time, we talked about “corporate citizenship” and “cause marketing,” and the relationships between corporate donors and their non-profit recipients lasted for years. But in today’s impatient, urgent world, opportunistic donors jump from non-profit to non-profit like honeybees, and hungry non-profits cajole prospective donors like streetwalkers enticing johns.

For donors, the best advice is from the Bible:  “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:21)

Here are some simple Do’s and Don’ts for companies:

  • DO establish an annual budget for support – and stick to it.
  • DO follow your heart and support causes you believe in.
  • DO go bigger with causes you already support.
  • DON’T expect ROI in 90 days (or ever).
  • DON’T do it purely for the publicity.

It’s in the self-interest of every for-profit business to help make its community a better, safer place, but it’s also your responsibility as a stakeholder in that community.

Public Relations is about credibility.

Credibility is the child of transparency and specificity.

It can’t be manufactured, borrowed, or rented — even from the best non-profit you can buy.

Donna Dupuy
Donna Dupuy
Donna Dupuy is a marketing and PR consultant for professional practitioners, service providers, and progressive political entities.

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