Developing Public-Private Partnerships

Article excerpt

Developing public-private partnerships

Corporate and nonprofit public relations practitioners are increasingly aware that their cooperative efforts benefit both their reputation and profitability. The public relations profession is now a mainstream discipline that helps to relate philanthropic, social and marketing efforts.

Companies realize that reputations, particularly as they relate to key social issues, affect profitability. For example, consumers are making more informed choices regarding purchases. In many cases, issues such as a company's environmental record or stance on such topics as animal rights and education also influence consumer choices. Astute CEOs and their public relations executives realize a company's concern for societal issues can influence competitiveness in the marketplace.

The New York-based Council on Economic Priorities, for example, has sold about 700,000 copies of "Shopping For A Better World." Available since January 1989, it rates the makers of over 1,800 brand-name products on 11 issues, including: advancement of women and minorities, animal testing, giving to charity, nuclear power, the environment and involvement in South Africa.

This tie between company policy and social issues is particularly evident with the animal rights movement and the cosmetics industry. For example, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Rockville, Maryland, launched a program nearly five years ago called the "Caring Consumer Campaign," which provides a free listing of companies that do not use animals for testing product lines. According to Kathy Gaillermo, director of the campaign, the list has grown from a scant 50 to more than 300 companies.

Every month, PETA receives 2,500 requests for the list from consumers who might consider this factor when making their purchasing decisions. Realizing that this issue can affect sales, many companies have started to promote the fact that products are not tested on animals.

Pressure on tuna fishers to change their fishing methods to avoid killing dolphins is [Unreadable] have done this are putting this information on product labels.

Such trends present public relations practitioners with great challenges and unparalleled opportunities. Our challenge is to develop direct links to marketing, sales and philanthropy, and demonstrate the impact of public relations on corporate earnings through these efforts. At the same time, we can help to elevate the role of public relations to a higher plateau where it can regularly influence decision-making.

Designing alliances

Corporations, public relations firms and nonprofit organizations can benefit from action-oriented alliances. Public relations practitioners should be designing, developing and managing these partnerships.

One of the most visible examples of such a partnership is Project Literacy U.S., (PLUS) a joint effort by Capital Cities/ABC and Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), to promote literacy in America. The two television networks launched a nationwide public awareness campaign to link individuals who could not read with literacy organizations. Since its inception more than five years ago, PLUS has helped hundreds of nonprofits and businesses develop outreach efforts. The benefactors are the thousands of individuals who have learned to read, and the American businesses that employ them. Since PLUS began, more than 600,000 people have called the National Literacy hot line to either volunteer or inquire about programs.

The following suggestions can help you position your organization to benefit from such partnerships.

* Implement "adopt-an-issue" or "adopt-a-program" projects. If you are in the corporate public relations business, one of the most effective ways to position your organization is to focus on a key social issue related to your organization's mission and make your company's name synonymous with this topic. …