Putting the Community in Communications
While many of our previous posts have dealt with the “what” or “how” of earned media/public relations, here’s a look at something critical to the communications profession: the “why.”
And for a look at the “why” of a communications program, who better to spotlight than a 20 year+ professional who exemplifies the power of purpose in the industry?
KJ McAllister, principal of KJM Public Relations, and a past executive for Fortune 500’s Hewlett-Packard, exemplifies “why” it is vital to support community as part of your industry calling. Her commitment to using her public relations skills for advocacy and social impact is a case study for harnessing the power of communications to create positive outcomes.
From serving on the board of key industry professional organizations, from International Association of Business Communicators, to Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and more, she’s considered it a matter of professional priority and civic good to volunteer time and skill to support the profession. She’s also been a key communicator, helping mentor innovative creative conferences and other events.
Under her leadership as president of IABC, she’s expanded the education and interaction performance of the organization’s annual conference. As a board member of PRSA, she’s helped create a robust conference and speakers roster that has educated, engaged and energized countless area professionals.
Why is this important? Because the communications profession is a powerful one, much more so than most individuals realize. The power to persuade, inform, set conversational agendas and drive media coverage impacts communities, generates emotion and drives action. It is a serious responsibility to be a communicator, and professionals need to be mindful of the impact they create through their profession.
Leaders like KJ understand this, and make meaningful, thoughtful and strategic communications outreach and civic engagement an essential foundation to their work. Her industry efforts are keenly focused on educating, encouraging and setting an example of civic-minded and ethical practice of the profession.
Of course, there is another aspect to positive use of communications; and KJ is equally active in this sphere: community.
Whether she’s volunteering for a local charter school, supporting the good efforts of local children’s causes or lending her support (and an ear) to Portland’s vibrant startup community, she puts her figurative money where her mouth is. Arranging interviews, creating outreach strategies and ensuring positive coverage of key causes is an ongoing passion of KJ’s.
When we asked KJ about some tips for becoming community-focused communicators, she had a few thoughts to share. We are happy to pass along.
KJ’s Three Key Tips for Community-Focused Communications
1. Listen & Look: It’s essential to truly understand the enterprise or organization and its goals before you weigh in with strategies. It’s great to be well-meaning, but to be well-meaning and effective, take time to audit an organization, and create recommendations that will benefit the mission.
2. Balance: The call-to-action for community engagement is a continuous one. To ensure you are able to “help for the long haul,” learn the fine art of saying “no” when your plate is full. Creating a balance between personal life, work and community engagement is tough, but it is necessary to ensure you can continue to be of service on a long-term basis.
3. Question: It’s so easy to get swept up in the good intentions and momentum of a great cause. However, if you don’t ask tough questions; about media readiness, performance, financial viability and a number of things which an organization needs to have in place to succeed, then you are not helping them.
Creating media attention is great if an organization is well-situated to flourish and grow in the spotlight, but a poorly-planned initiative can be disastrous. The answers may not be what you had hoped, but so much better to fact check internally, then have a top journalist point out the failings of a well-meaning cause.
Questions or comments? Interested in hearing how KJ can help drive the communications strategy within your community?