Canned food drives are easy and make a difference.

Canned food drives are easy and make a difference in the fight against hunger.

In the realm of public relations, my specialty is community relations. That is puzzling to some people because it sounds so generic, like a synonym of public relations. It’s not, of course, it’s actually very specific and is why I am often recruited to work on much larger campaigns where community relations is one portion.

Typical Community Relations Activities

Contests are great community relations activities.

Contests are great community relations activities.

Defined by being out in the community, falling in this category is participation in public expos, fairs, and other general events, but it also includes contests, drives and collections, appearances by a mascot, setting a world record, and more. You can invite other organizations to collaborate with these endeavors which helps spread your message even quicker.

Different Than Cause Marketing

Cause marketing fits under the umbrella of community relations. Cause marketing is when your company holds a community service event that raises money for, or awareness of, a cause beyond your own. A good example of this is shown by the many companies that take part in this kind of effort in October for breast cancer awareness (represented by pink ribbons)—even as far-reaching as high school football teams wearing pink socks emulating the NFL players. Companies might pair the awareness campaign by also making a donation to a charity that supports that cause. The cause you choose to support needs to align with your core values and be in line with your brand.

Benefits of Community Relations

A mascot draws attention at any event.

A mascot draws attention at any event.

Community relations is the most personal and sociable part of public relations. It is the aspect that puts a company closest to its customers and constituents. You can shake hands, answer questions (even ones that people don’t want to put in print), and smile. It creates goodwill and transparency. You can articulate complex concepts and engage in dialogue more so than in social media posts and explain things better than you can in website FAQs, interacting more personally than on a Skype call. In this digital world, it’s important for companies to incorporate a community relations component to show that the company is run by real people, not just a man behind a curtain.

As one strategy of a larger plan, community relations activities are supported with social media and other traditional public relations activities to create robust and full campaigns. Community relations might be the component your marketing plan is missing.


Community Relations at a Glance• Involves the greater community • Creates greater awareness • Conversation piece for your customer/donor base • Longevity in the community • Discovers misconceptions • Doesn’t have to be expensive • Fun!

Leslie A.M. Smith has been administering no-nonsense marketing and public relations campaigns as the owner of McCormick L.A. since 1994. [email protected]




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