Passion and a Plan for PR Success
Wednesday, 16th July 2014 at 10:58 am
The role of public exposure in the development of social enterprises and Not for Profits cannot be underestimated, according to STREAT CEO Rebecca Scott.
The role of public exposure in the development of social enterprises and Not for Profits cannot be underestimated and a fledgling Melbourne social enterprise, STREAT, is testament to that since its establishment in 2010.
The organisation recently received a $500,000 grant from the Ian Potter Foundation, the latest in a long line of awards, grants and investment as it seeks to develop the recently-acquired Cromwell Manor into a youth training academy, cafe, artisan bakery, boutique coffee roastery, function centre and catering hub.
The organisation has successfully reached scale at a rapid rate. What began with two food carts in 2010 is now a four-business enterprise that provides homeless youth with support, life-skills, work experience and training.
Founder and CEO Rebecca Scott has become somewhat of a face for the social enterprise sector, with STREAT garnering national media attention.
Pro Bono Australia News spoke with Scott about leveraging exposure and a media presence and what it has meant for her organisation in attracting the capital required to carry out its ambitious agenda.
1. Exposure is a Worthy Investment
Scott says she is a firm believer in the worthiness of considering different types of value, beyond mere financial capital. She says other types of capital may eventually be converted into financial output.
Media attention could build these other types of capital – for example, human capital, social capital and knowledge capital.
Once projects are happening, she says, it’s easier to get momentum and more people involved.
“When you have excited people at the start of the process there’s more human capital. After a while you add other types of capital into the mix,” she says.
In 2011, a small publisher featured STREAT in her cookbook. What was at first glance a seemingly minor opportunity for exposure was leveraged to create hundreds of thousands in financial capital.
At the cookbook launch, the publisher raised $4000 for STREAT, which was put towards the development of a STREAT cookbook. That was then used as the key item in a crowdfunding campaign, which reached the tipping point to enable a new cafe to be developed.
After the landlords matched the crowdfunded amount and several in-kind donations towards the cafe’s development were received, there was also an opportunity to expand the print run of the STREAT cookbook, paving the way for a further $100,000 worth of sales in future.
Scott says media exposure in particular has been integral.
“If I look back now at the financial support we’ve received, the strategy that has been most successful for us was building a strategy for the media,” she says.
Two major partnerships were the “direct result” of a media presence, she says. The organisation’s major bakery partner saw a piece about STREAT and the next day picked up the phone, as did Geoff Harris, the philanthropist underpinning the development at Cromwell Manor.
Scott says exposure and brand recognition cannot be underestimated when you’re competing in the open marketplace.
“It’s almost like people believe that because of all the good you’re doing, customers will materialise out of nowhere,” she says.
“If you’re not talking about why you exist and being publicly visible, it’s like flipping a coin. It’s leaving it too much up to chance.
“If I had to decide between a grant writer or a media and communications person, I’d choose the media person straight away.”
2. Start Developing a Strategy Early On
“Really, really early on we developed a media and communications strategy. We knew we were going to compete in the open market place and we knew we needed to be visible,” Scott says.
Scott recommends building that strategy by mapping out the organisation’s media and brand development year-by-year.
Her own strategy was under development a year before STREAT even officially launched.
She also advises considering external help.
STREAT managed to broker a partnership with a small PR company, working for the social enterprise on a pro bono basis. The company were also specialists in food and drink – STREAT’s market.
“Now we have people coming to us who say ‘we know that when we ask you guys to be involved, you will have some great stories’,” she says.
Thirty per cent of STREAT’s media activity now has a national reach.
At the start of each year, Scott and her media team sit down and block out major events that may be media-worthy, working out effective story angles. Being creative with positioning of media releases, she says, has enabled STREAT to reach new markets. A focus on the organisation’s receipt of impact investment funds, for example, has unlocked a business and finance audience far removed from what might be expected for a social sector story.
For Not for Profits and social enterprises starting out, Scott suggests beginning with a concise and compelling summary of the project – a two-pager, five-pager and 10-pager about the organisation. She advises to think about fine details, right down to offering it both in hard copy and PDF.
This, she says, should be backed up with professional and effective branding and a web offering as early as possible.
“Get yourself a good website that looks decent,” she says. “Make sure you get someone to design it so it looks good. If you’re selling the promise of something, you need them to think, ‘I trust them.’ You’re selling the promise of what you can do.”
3. Leverage Exposure Opportunities – Smartly
Treating every opportunity with careful consideration and timing your exposure is paramount.
Scott recounts a time when Cromwell Manor, formerly a brothel, was visited by a tabloid newspaper.
“They really wanted to use a story angle that I thought wasn’t appropriate,” Scott says. “I said, ‘I’m sorry, but I’d rather have no story’.
“If we’re the ones initiating the story, it’s planned. We know when to put the release out. It’s planned and deliberate – you need to be able to tell stories well.
“We know what is and isn’t to be talked about. We respect the privacy of young people.”
Scott also sees value in alternative opportunities for exposure, such as awards schemes.
“It has absolutely helped. Where it’s really useful with corporates or a business person. It’s useful having that external body or process to give us that due diligence tick,” she says.
Participation in awards, Scott says, should be precisely timed.
“I always think it’s a bit premature to go for awards. I think about how much better we’ll be in five years! Think about when you’re ready,” she says.
“I don’t tend to ever put us in awards over multiple years.”
Crowdfunding and social media may also offer value.
“It’s knowing how to use social media well to go viral. Once it goes viral, it’s picked up by the media,” she says.
“That’s a strategy I’ve seen used really well.”
One of the most memorable crowdfunding campaigns Scott says she can recall was by Simon Griffiths, Founder of ‘Who Gives a Crap’, who sat on a toilet and asked for donations to help him get off it and solve sanitation problems in third world countries
“He worked the media,” she says. “He raised $50,000 in twenty four hours.”
Scott says with these kinds of strategies and backup information are paramount.
“They already had websites there. It wasn’t like there was nothing behind that,” she says.
In building an identity, Scott says she believes social entrepreneurs should, above all, draw out their skills at “bricolage” – a way of making something happen using what’s available.
“I think that’s one thing that typifies the way we work,” she says. “When we want to create opportunities we think of all the different ways we could harness capital to create opportunities.
“Most social enterprises are great at creating bricolage. You have to think, ‘how can I make this happen without cash?”