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The “New Normal” – Community Relations

By August 26, 2020 No Comments
2020 has rocked our economy. Unemployment has skyrocketed, travel and tourism has been decimated, and people are more conscious about where their money goes. It is clearly not business as usual. As local and state governments reinstate Stay at Home orders put in place to slow down and hopefully prevent the spread of COVID-19, there are steps that can be taken to transition your business into our “new normal.”
Now is the time to maintain and strengthen your reputation, and Cerrell is committed to sharing our best practices for tailoring your public relations and public affairs strategies to the current climate.

PART 3: COMMUNITY RELATIONS

When COVID-19 cases in the United States began to rise in March, companies large and small had to ask a simple question – do we hunker down and try and ride out the storm, or do we lean into the problem and support the communities where our customers come from? Cerrell is fortunate in that several of our clients have intensified their community presence during the pandemic, supporting those in need and contributing to the continued strength of their communities.

Even during our “new normal,” it is important to identify the following three things when pursuing community relations goals:

  1. What resources do you have available to contribute?
  2. Who are you trying to help?
  3. What type of impact do you want to make?

Resources

Whether it’s money, time, access, or a platform, never sell your company’s resources short when it comes to making a positive impact in your community.

One of the first things the Cerrell team does when embarking in community relations work is take inventory of our clients’ ability to contribute. Not every brand will be able to make a sizeable donation like a McDonalds or Nike, but we can always work with what they do have.

When COVID-19 resulted in Los Angeles County sheltering in place, one client—real estate developer Legado Companies—reached out to us with concern for their Playa Del Rey (PDR) neighbors, asking us how they could help during this challenging time. What they had available was vacant office and retail space at one of their properties, an e-newsletter that reaches many PDR residents, and a set budget they could invest in supporting the community.

Audience

Some of the most successful and impactful community relations campaigns we’ve done have been ones that target specific audiences.

While donating time or money to any good cause will be received positively, we see the most impact when our clients target the audiences they already serve or are most impacted by whatever crisis that has arisen. Many times, these two audiences overlap.

Legado’s audience was clear from the start—the Playa Del Rey community has been the main focus of Legado’s community relations efforts since before the pandemic. When we engaged in outreach prior to COVID-19, we developed community lists and fostered relationships with local businesses and community organizations. This previous community work allowed us to identify what locals felt they needed and who was struggling the most.

Type of Impact

Identifying how a client can positively contribute to its community combines the goals of your client, the resources available, and the audience you are trying to help.

The reason we identify this last is because, many times, clients know they want to help, but they don’t always know how. We want to make sure that the resources each client has available is used to maximize the outcomes of their community relations efforts.

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed an opportunity for Legado to step up and demonstrate their commitment to lifting up the Playa Del Rey community. After taking inventory of resources and defining an audience and their concerns, we were able to properly identify how to uplift the PDR community during a time of crisis: delivering local aid and supporting local businesses.

First, we identified two local non-profits—Westside Pacific Villages and Grass Roots Neighbors—for Legado to donate space to on their 200 Culver property. This allowed these organizations to operate out of a centralized location to serve the PDR community, delivering weekly care packages to seniors and other at-risk populations who were having difficulty accessing essential supplies. Second, as Stay at Home orders started being lifted, we utilized the Legado e-newsletter to highlight which businesses were open, their most recent hours of operations, and how locals could best support them while adhering to public health guidelines.

These good works not only uplifted the community, but built trust between Legado and the Playa Del Rey locals. These outcomes have allowed our client to operate in the community with more support and less pushback—most recently, when a beloved PDR flower shop was being ousted from its home of over 25 years, Legado was able to step in and broker a lease agreement for Flowers By Felicia to move into the 200 Culver building with the community’s support.

At times, community relations can seem pretty straightforward—however, in our decades of experience providing this service for our clients, we’ve seen it can be easy to have good intentions but still fall short in terms of delivering results for the client and the community. By taking into account these three things when figuring out how you can improve your relations with your audiences, we take the guesswork out of navigating community relations, strengthening our clients’ brand and relationships within the communities they serve.

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