How Personal Causes Help Business Development

November 2019
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Not too long ago, I noticed that a personal cause that I have supported for quite a while was missing the mark in some of its communications. 

As someone who’s worked in issues management for a long time, I couldn’t help but see that many of the leading organizations involved with the same issue had fallen into the trap of assuming the public already understood the issue the way they did, and that the virtues of their arguments were self-evident.

In short, it appeared to me that some were just too close to the issue, and their communications were showing it. That’s when I decided to methodically approach some of the leading organizations involved, each on their own terms.

An offer of support

Realizing these are all very smart people, I knew the worst thing I could do was to introduce myself as “the solution” to their communications ills. And one of the more common ego missteps that PR consultants make is to assume they know more than those they serve.

Further, I know that until you’re actually on the inside, you don’t have access to some information that would likely make all the difference in how you see things.

That’s why my introductory posture was primarily to offer support based on what I knew, acknowledging very specifically what I needed to learn, and then offering help where I knew they could use it immediately, which is writing.

In my research, I found that these are thinly staffed organizations, and their leadership often are asked to contribute op-eds and make speeches. So, I approached some key people and offered to provide ghostwriting support for op-eds and speeches.

In quick order, two of the organizations I approached responded, and one hired me to write op-eds, conduct media training and lead a communications audit.

An important cause

Maybe you don’t like to write and you want to leave media training to others. But there is a good chance that the same value you deliver your typical clients would be extremely valuable to a cause you support and, most important, that work does not have to be pro bono.

Since I started my business, I’ve always made sure that the clients and assignments that I take fit within my personal value system and my firm’s market positioning. 

Yes, I’ve done, and still do, my share of pro bono work. But I have to admit: There have been some causes, though important to me on a personal level, where I did not see a fit with my firm’s own positioning. I may have been too quick to dismiss them as possible business opportunities.

You may feel, like me, that some causes are just too personal or too far removed from the kinds of client work you take on day-to-day to see them as a real fit. But you may be surprised.

I mentioned earlier that one thing I noticed about these nonprofit organizations was that they were too close to the issue. In the case of considering these same organizations as potential clients of my own, I may have been too close to the issue myself. 

As fortune would have it, I’ve been able to branch out in some new business areas simply by revisiting some causes that were important to me. This is something you can do, too. 

photo credit: lightspring

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