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The Chicago Computer Society -- Users Helping Users

1995 Midwest Regional Conference

How to Use Public Relations Effectively

Betty Ritter, B.J. Ritter Associates -- (Workshop Description)

A Model Personal Computer User Group Public Relations Program

To make the most effective use of public relations as a developmental tool for your user group, you need a well thought out written program. Writing such a program is similar to the process of computer programming; you decide what it is you want to accomplish, you consider all the possible segments, you think through the steps that are necessary to reach your goal, and you set it all down in a tangible form. If you've done a thorough job of writing your public relations program, you'll come to realize that "PR" is much more than just publicity. It, in fact, offers a variety of benefits, as the following "ideal" outline shows.

  1. Goals
    1. Make your PCUG known in your community as a prime place to learn personal computer skills
    2. Increase membership
    3. Improve services to members
    4. Improve communication channels, both externally and internally
  2. Publics
    1. External: non member users
    2. New users and about to become users
      1. Home
      2. Small businesses
      3. Corporate
    3. Experienced users>OL>
    4. Home
    5. Small businesses
    6. Corporate
  3. Vendors
  4. Media
    1. General, non computer publications
      1. city and neighborhood newspapers
      2. community newsletters and bulletin boards
    2. Computer industry publications
    3. Internet
      1. Usenet groups
      2. WWW home page
  5. Internal: members
    1. New users
    2. Experienced users
    3. Chapter and SIG coordinators
  6. Role of PCUG board/officers in public relations
    1. Keep membership informed about official decisions and actions
    2. Encourage feedback from members
    3. Respond to suggestions from members
    4. Support chapter and SIG activities with guidance and funding
    5. Attend chapter and SIG meetings whenever possible
  7. Basic public relations strategies
    1. Appoint a public relations/marketing director; depending on the size and scope of your user group, that person may work alone or head a committee. If you have chapters, chapter representatives should serve on the committee. Through the committee structure, chapter generated publicity can be coordinated by providing chapter representatives with local media lists and guidance about how to write and distribute news releases
    2. Establish and maintain contact with key media
      1. News releases
        1. Snail mail, fax, or e mail?
      2. Telephone contact
        1. Initial intro; learn deadlines and preferences
        2. Pitch feature article ideas
    3. Send information about meetings and activities to:
      1. Appropriate media, both local and national
      2. Public libraries
      3. Local and area vendors
      4. Community groups
      5. Chamber of Commerce
    4. Develop and actively promote a speakers bureau
      1. Promote the bureau to public libraries and community service groups (libraries and groups such as Kiwanis, Elks, etc. are always eager for program ideas and speakers)
    5. Develop a list of vendors who would be willing to make promotional and informational materials available to their customers
  8. Possible public relations strategies, as time and volunteer hours permit
    1. Develop a list and identify appropriate contact persons at community service organizations (such as Kiwanis, Elks, B'nai Brith) to whom you could send news of PCUG activities and promote your speakers bureau
    2. Establish and maintain a contact at the local Chamber of Commerce, to whom you could send information about PCUG meetings and activities
      1. Use that contact person as a resource for information about other community groups or businesses that could benefit from membership in your PCUG
    3. Develop a list of members who are experts in various aspects of personal computer usage and who would be willing to be interviewed and quoted by journalists seeking information for articles; make this resource list available to media
    4. Network with other user groups to learn what public relations strategies have worked (or not worked) for them
    5. Be alert for potential feature article ideas about your PCUG, its activities, and its members
  9. Basic internal public relations responsibilities
    1. Establish policy and procedure for review and approval of major publicity releases and/or stories
    2. Coordinate design, print production, and distribution of your PCUG brochure and other printed material
    3. Explain public relations program to members, soliciting their cooperation in funneling information about activities to PR director/committee
  10. Additional public relations responsibilities, as time permits
    1. For special events, provide promotional counseling, create printed materials, and generate appropriate publicity
    2. Assist in establishing a promotional plan for educational seminars
    3. Serve as review resource for exhibits prepared for computer industry conventions and local community groups
    4. Develop a membership profile; augment the profile by conducting a telephone survey of randomly selected members to explore their perception of your PCUG services, benefits, and management
    5. Contact ex members by phone to determine their reason(s) for terminating membership; take corrective measures, if appropriate
    6. Review status of current services for members; suggest ways to augment or improve your services; these might include:
      1. BBS
      2. Newsletter
      3. Internet WWW home page
      4. Public domain/shareware library
      5. Meetings
      6. SIGS
      7. Lecture/seminar series
      8. Dealer discounts

This is an "ideal" program. Use it as a checklist to help you think through and choose those activities that will best serve your group. Your needs may be modest, depending on the size of your group, but if you have included activities to serve your external and internal publics, your public relations program will serve you well.

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