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Interview with William Murray, President, Public Relations Society of America

William Murray, President of Public Relations Society of America

Profiles in Partnership

A series on best practices and sound advice for developing and maintaining successful cross-sector partnerships – partnerships between two or more from the nonprofit, for-profit, education or government sectors.

Part 2

BB: When PRSA develops a program on a regional or national basis do you provide specific marketing materials, what I would call a “tool kit”, to support their local efforts?

WM: For the first year of the HDTV relationship we provided local chapters rough ideas and examples, and with the examples we gave them judging criteria as there was a prize contest involved. We were looking for programs that benefitted from the contribution of PR expertise. For example, one chapter invited various nonprofit organizations to a type of speed-dating evening. So you come in and there’s a half- dozen nonprofits set up with different PR folks. In most cases these nonprofits are running a very resource-constrained social service organization and at this event you get to meet with 10 people, get free advice and go away with a bunch of ideas and maybe a jumping-off point to do something. So the first year we didn’t really give them a tool kit per se but what we’re going to do for subsequent years is provide all the examples of the programs that were taking place but with more detail by way of example, in hope to give ideas to folks of the types of things they could be doing.

BB: Is the relationship with Rebuilding Together still going?

WM: That relationship is really through HGTV and HGTV said, here’s how we’ll support you, we’re going to put up two sets of prize money. One set will be for programs undertaken by PRSA chapters for whatever initiatives they would like. The second set of prize money will be for initiatives undertaken with Rebuilding Together and that way, each chapter can work on an endeavor supported at the national level or they can do something locally that interests them because a member of their chapter might have been involved or there’s a situation in their community they want to address.

BB: So rather than dictate from national that you had to do it this way, you gave them an option.

WM: Yes and what would happen in previous years is we would periodically be contacted by chapters who would say they have a worthy cause and want national to help support this cause, and the reality is for national to pick and choose winners and losers among our many chapters across the country, it was really a situation that was very, very difficult for us. We wanted to provide some type of support when we heard from individuals in the chapters but we didn’t want to reach a thousand miles across the country and say, oh that’s a great cause and support that.

BB: You couldn’t possibly have the bandwidth if you had 50 different chapters, with different causes, requesting your support.

WM: Several years ago a member of one of our chapters in Pennsylvania was terminally ill and a number of members of the chapter came forward and they said we’re raising money for some of her medicine and for her funeral expenses and they would like national to endorse this. It was an absolutely heartbreaking situation. Yet again, it put us in the position of are we endorsing one cause over another? We realized that one of the ways we could help was to publicize what the chapter was doing. Not formally endorse it, not get involved and stick our fingers in it, but say to our other members, hey, look at the good work that this chapter is doing. And so that puts us in a position where we can say to all of our chapters, we encourage you to help people in your community. We’re not going to tell you want to do, we will recognize all of you for helping, we will award those of you who do the best contributing work and we think at the end of the day you’re going to reflect admirably upon our profession by using your professional skills to make your community a better place.

Up Next: Part 3 in Series, Offering pro bono services

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