Good community relations programs don't require a ton of money.

Let your community know that you care.
Carefully conceived community relations programs generate local awareness and positive images of your company. Successful programs increase your personal stature in the community, too. That'll pump up your own feelings of achievement. A good community relations program also:

  • Increases your company's ability to attract new business opportunities.

  • Introduces new prospective customers to your services and products.

  • Improves your employees' image of the company and, thus, their morale.

  • Makes hiring easier as prospective employees see the company in a positive light.

  • Establishes your company as a class act in the eyes of suppliers, creditors and lenders.

How to Get Started

Before you focus on specific things to do, outline your plans. Be sure that you consider these questions:

Who are the primary targets for your community relations campaign? Zero in on this area and make a priority list. Don't waste any of your efforts on secondary objectives.

What is the best means of communicating with your targets? Local newspapers? Radio/television? Company publications? Dinners/luncheons/picnics? Press conferences? News releases? Private meetings? You have to pick the media that are best suited to your messages, your image and your locale.

When is the best time to conduct campaigns or promote your activities? Which season? Weekdayv Weekend? Holiday?

Who in your organization is going to handle the detail work? What personnel are available? What about budget and costs?

What's the main objective of the campaign? When you come up with a specific answer to this question, you'll solve all the previous situations and be able to swing necessary company resources behind the program.

An “Employee of the Year” announcement can create positive feelings both inside and outside your organization.

Campaign Ideas

Many community activities don't require huge sums of money, though they all require careful preparation and follow-through. Which types of ideas are best for your firm depends on how you answered the questions in your campaign preparation. Following are some examples to jump-start the thought process.

Assist local programs for environmental improvements. Contribute pickup bags stenciled with your company's name to all local environmental organizations, participate in community recycling programs, sponsor an annual “Pick Up Liter Day” and give employees who volunteer to help clean up paid time off that day.

Institute an annual award. Pick a category of achievement to honor, such as a citizen/volunteer/businessperson/athlete/employee of the year award. Get your congressperson, mayor or some other official to present the award for increased media exposure.

Offer a facilities tour. Schools and service organizations, in particular, respond to such offers. School classes make them into educational field trips. Tailor your presentation to the group coming to visit. Send tour participants home with small favors - baseball caps, bumper stickers, shopping bags, pens, magnets, calendars and the like.

Put on periodic safe-driving courses. Ask your volunteer teachers to be trained by the Red Cross or AARP, so that insurance companies will give premium discounts to those course takers you certify have completed the course. Make a ceremony out of “graduation day” and let the media know about the event.

Support efforts of your employees who become active in community affairs. You may have employees active in volunteer firefighting, auxiliary police, the city or town council or other municipal agencies. Recognize those individuals in your community publications and post items on your company's Web site and in-house bulletin boards to encourage participation.

Encourage employees to get involved in local charities and give them paid time off. Charitable work brings great credit to the individuals, some of which rubs off on your company. Offer matching contributions to local community funds and charities. Agree to match the contributions made by your employees. Publicize fund-raising drives and your company's participation in them.

Keep in regular contact with civic groups, schools and similar organizations and offer to provide speakers for their various functions. You need, of course, to adapt your speakers' talks to the groups and to make sure their speeches aren't just sales promotions for your company.

Sponsor a contest or competition. Choose a subject with local appeal and, whenever possible, with a link to your business.

Celebrate special occasions. Consider, for special events, the length of time your company has been in business in your community, records set by local employees for sales or production, honors for employees' length of service, attendance records or other achievements. Include in these special events any activity that makes news - banquets, picnics, sporting events, parades, etc.

Produce consumer-oriented literature. Certainly, “Ten Reasons to Have Your Well Checked” and “Do You Know What's in Your Water?” make useful leaflets. Also good might be a list of emergency telephone numbers in your area that goes by the telephone, or a flyer and/or wallet-sized card with CPR instructions. Select subjects that are relevant and topical - and make sure your organization is properly credited for their creation.

Use your company's human resources. Offer the services of your financial whiz to help solve a vexing problem on how best to raise and invest funds for a community project. When your people help to solve local problems, they vastly improve outsiders' perceptions of your company.

Earn Good Press

A really effective community relations program won't get off the ground without the support of the local media. They quickly can convey to large audiences information about your programs with the additional benefit of favorable publicity for your company and its people. Even with media backing, however, any program may not really click on all cylinders in the very first year. So persist.

To earn good press, make sure that all reporters, writers and editors receive significant news without delay and in the most convenient form for their use. Develop good rapport with the editorial and news personnel of the local media. And don't forget to let National Driller know what you're up to.

Well-conceived community relations programs help you, too, to accomplish the objectives you've laid out in your planning.