Building local community relationships can be the most important communication activity undertaken by an organisation, yet it is often overlooked. As a public relations consultancy with a strong focus on SMEs and franchise businesses amongst others, it is a priority goal we set for our clients to develop a solid, ongoing and reliable community relations program.

For local businesses and franchises, it is important to get to know your neighbourhood and to get involved with local initiatives. This will in turn help raise awareness of your business and services, as well as being a great opportunity to get to know your competitors.

Since any organisation can expect to communicate with a range of community audiences including employees, shareholders, creditors, consumers, the media, the general public and government agencies, an effective communication plan needs to be implemented.

Below are some suggested activities which, when used as a tool with an effective communication strategy and PR plan, can be highly effective in raising awareness of your business within your community. Remember GET INVOLVED!

Media relations:
In a community relations program, it is very important to build relationships with key journalists from the local media outlets. By doing this, you have an already established rapport with them which could be of a huge benefit in times of crisis.

This could mean, for example, sponsoring a local event (community day or fair), donating new sports equipment to the local soccer club or donating a prize to the local schools speech night. This type of sponsorship is reasonably inexpensive yet can be capitalised on to make a great local newspaper story.

Business and community groups:
An increased involvement in key business groups should also be introduced as part of the promotional activities. This involvement will help create visibility of your organisation within a business and community audience, therefore increasing the chances of developing strategic partnerships with other local businesses and groups. There could also be an opportunity for cross promotion in the business groups’ members’ newsletters, publications or website.