How did you spend New Year’s Day? Eating black-eyed peas and greens? Watching football? Or were you one of the adventurous folks on Sullivan’s Island who lunged into the icy water of the Atlantic Ocean?

Dunleavy-PolarPlungeOver the past nineteen years, Dunleavy’s Pub New Year’s Day Polar Plunge has raised $1000’s of dollars for Special Olympics South Carolina. In addition, this chilly annual event has provided a wonderful public relations opportunity to launch each new year.

Thousands of “Polar Plungers” were “freezin’ for a reason” on January 1st.  These enthusiastic revelers were demonstrating their support of the Special Olympics; an organization that strives to create a better world by fostering the acceptance and inclusion of all people, through the power of sport. If you have a moment you should check out some of the many compelling YouTube videos.

I encourage all of my nonprofit friends to join the Special Olympics and take the PR Plunge in 2013…which leads me to a question I was asked recently at the Chamber’s legislative breakfast.

Our organization has been around since the 1960’s, though we continue to be the best-kept secret in town. We need to tell our story. Please offer your top recommendations for starting a public relations strategy in 2013.
~Sid S

Sid, I applaud your New Year’s resolution, and I am happy to share the following insights for initiating a public relations plan this year.

1. Set your goals

The first step of each plan is…well, creating the plan. Think about the goals that you want to achieve with your PR campaign and prioritize them. Then develop complementing strategies and a realistic annual schedule.

2. Use your website

Update your website regularly to communicate your good work.

3. Make friends (on social media)

Encourage your supporters to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

4. Build media relations.

Differentiate by telling compelling stories that demonstrate your organization is unique.

5. Write a letter to the editor

Send a letter or Op Ed when there is a timely, newsworthy reason for it that is directly related to your nonprofit.

6. Share your expertise

Encourage your staff to attend and present at conferences and local events.

7. Put on a special event

Raise awareness (and funds) by hosting an event for your loyal supporters and others in the community.

8. Branch out

Spread your messages across multiple channels, such as blog posts, email blasts, and social networks. Offer multiple ways for people to receive and share your story.

9. Create or update your crisis communications plan

Hopefully, you won’t need it, but it is always better to be safe than sorry.

10. Give thanks

Does your organization rely on volunteers or have board members that deserve recognition? Send thank you notices or interesting stories to their employers’ communications departments and urge them to put something in the company newsletter or intranet.

As you check off your list of New Year’s resolutions, don’t let your good intentions waver and take a nosedive. Hang tough and accept the PR Challenge.  You will be glad you did.

Until next time,


Thank you to the Upstate Business Journal (UBJ) for inviting me to be a regular contributor to their publication. My goal in writing this column is to share my passion for nonprofits by bringing to light relevant information and success stories. This column is presented in a question and answer format. So whether you are a nonprofit professional, an active community volunteer or someone just looking for a way to get involved, I want to hear from you. I invite you to read all of my UBJ columns here.