Next to employees, local communities – the ones in which a company does business, whether that be manufacturing, retail, or management – tend to be the stakeholders most often overlooked by companies. But these people – whether they are customers or merely the family, friends, and neighbors of employees – can have a significant impact on everything from corporate reputation to actual sales.
I have had a number of opportunities to focus on community relations for a variety of businesses over the years. For example, I devised community relations programs for both restaurant chain Carver’s Steakhouses and PC retailer Inca Computers to help generate traffic in targeted locations. I worked with Pizza Hut to improve relationships with specific Latino communities in the Los Angeles area. And I helped Prudential Real Estate Affiliates promote their individual franchise operations in communities around the country, providing customizable turnkey communications programs, tools, and support as well as localized crisis communications assistance when necessary.
One of the reasons I became the Managing Director at Asphalt Green was because they are a community-based nonprofit. Most of my clients had been targeting national and international audiences, so I saw this as an opportunity to try something different, to undertake a new challenge, targeting a specific community – which was all the more exciting because it happened to be my own community as well.
While the organization’s reputation at the time often made it difficult to form alliances and partnerships with others in the community, which can really help magnify your communications efforts (especially for nonprofits, which tend to have very limited budgets), I did manage to make some headway on that front. But the real success came when I took the brand out into the community, participating in a variety of neighborhood events through brand activations and other grassroots marketing initiatives.
These tactics proved very successful, helping us deliver the organization’s most successful event ever, along with the best-ever single day and month in terms of membership sales. And the example I set, along with the recommendations I had made, helped pave the way for the organization, under new leadership, to expand its reach and even began hosting a number of its own community-focused events beyond its traditional annual fundraiser.