Posts Tagged ‘Marketing

It was hot and sticky in Miami when I presented the results of a study on best practices in communication by charities and NGOs at the International Public Relations Research conference. Based on the hard work of my co-author Anna-Marie White, the paper was delivered in the very first session of the three-day conference. Talk about ‘first night nerves’ at 8.30 in the morning!


We had a really good turnout with lots of big names coming to our session. They liked what they heard and made great suggestions for further research. Even Vince Hazleton said the model we proposed “made sense”. That’s a real accolade from a leading PR theorist.


The study looked at how charities manage their reputation for ‘good works’ while undertaking commercial activities. It was based on research into a charity in the UK through document analysis and interviews with supporters. Our main findings were:


1)    Donors are overwhelmingly supportive of commercial activities, and communication about them, which are aligned with the charity’s mission.

2)    What donors perceived to be the charity’s intentions greatly impacts how they interpret the messages received from its communications

3)    Neither commercial activities nor revenue generation of any kind should distract from mission attainment.

4)    Communications on commercial activities should emphasise the ‘service’ that will result from rather than ‘marketing’ benefits of the products.

5)    Donors are annoyed with over-communication from the charitable sector as a whole. But they invite communication from charities they care about.

6)    The ‘giving paradox’ (you make yourself poorer in order to benefit others) complicates the exchange process within the donor-charity-beneficiary relationship.


The feedback we had was that these findings, with further testing, can be a real contribution to the under-researched area of communications by charities and NGOs. With extra advice from renowned PR academic Prof Doug Newsom, we’ll be pressing on with further investigations and revisions to our paper.

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Tom Watson

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