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Community Relations: Worth the Time & Investment for Small Businesses

For many, hearing the phrase “community relations” may make them think of that little league sponsorship they agreed to last spring or the donation they made to the elementary school dinner auction. It may be a term that means little to you – something you have previously deemed irrelevant or “low impact” for your particular business.

Oftentimes, community relations isn’t truly considered for all the potential it has to offer businesses of all shapes and sizes. And even more often, businesses make incorrect assumptions about what kind of community investments are actually going to produce a return. While others strategically develop plans to immerse their businesses deep within their community fabric.

Much to the horror of some, that little league sponsorship may not drive even $500 in sales to make up for the $500 you forked out. But truth be told it MAY hold other values that you have not yet considered.

Today we are going to break down what community relations is and why it should be included in your business strategy.

Defining the Term Community Relations for your Business

Defining the Term Community Relations for your Business

First and foremost, let’s talk about what community relations actually are. According to PRSA, community relations is defined as, “An area of public relations with responsibilities for building relationships with constituent publics such as schools, charities, clubs and activist interests of the neighborhoods or metropolitan area(s) where an organization operates. Community relations involves dealing and communicating with citizens and groups within an organization’s operating area.”

Think that’s a mouthful? You’re not wrong. But when you break this down, it is simply a long-winded way of saying that community relations is when a business makes tangible and intangible investments within their local area in order to form mutually beneficial relationships. Now before we take a single step further – note that what we did NOT say in either of those definitions – community relations main purpose is to drive RELATIONSHIPS, not SALES. *Insert gasp*

Now, now – let’s not get hasty. Ultimately positive relationships will inevitably lead to sales. But when creating a community relations strategy, the establishment of relationships should always be the focus.

Why Community Relations Matters

Why Community Relations Matters

Whether the idea of connecting with your community comes naturally or makes you a bit overwhelmed to consider – the fact remains that businesses are often expected to invest back into the communities that are investing in them and their dreams. But regardless of expectations, by committing to invest in community relations, businesses establish a reputation for high morals and ethics, civic service and goodwill. It makes it clear that your bottom line is not more important than seeing the community that feeds you thrive.

The Hard Facts When Deciding to Implement Community Relations

The Hard Facts When Deciding to Implement Community Relations

Still not convinced? Allow us to drive it home with a breakdown of some of the biggest benefits your business will reap by sowing those community relations seeds.

  1. Serving your community, whether financially or with acts of service, is the most obvious and meaningful display of gratitude you can offer them. As a small business, each and every time someone chooses to use their hard-earned money on our product it is valued and appreciated. Serving and giving back to the community who have invested in you and your dreams is the perfect way to pay it forward.
  2. An investment in community relations is a direct investment in your brand awareness and image. That’s right while building those relationships you will be networking and introducing you AND your business to members of the community you may not have previously reached all while generating a positive brand image. And while your business may have already been well-received by the community, your work will drive them to want to actually root for you and spread the word about why others should too. Want to learn more about turning your audience into advocates? Check out this blog to fill that gap!
  3. And while we are talking about awareness…Have you been trying to find ways to simply let more of your community know that you exist? Getting involved in community organizations through donations of time, skills, pro-bono services, in-kind donations or money will create pockets of awareness that you may not have previously had access to.
  4. According to a study performed by Harvard Law, businesses who actively engage in community relations efforts see increased customer loyalty accompanied by customers who are willing to pay premium prices, and they experience lower reputational risks in crisis situations.
  5. Research performed at Eastern Illinois University found that, “Consumer motivation is less influenced by tangible characteristics of products and services, but instead the greatest influence comes from the emotional elements that surround the complete transaction experience.” The same study showed that 27% of the respondents felt community relations programs effect which organizations they do business with and I0% said they had no effect on their decision. In addition, 8% were unsure if they affected their decisions, while the remaining 55% said that they preferred organizations that were well rounded.

Are you ready to develop a community relations strategy? We can help you make sure that you are identifying the where, when’s and how’s that your customers will appreciate most. Click here to contact us and schedule a consultation today!

Gerald D. Vinci

Gerald D. Vinci

Gerald D. Vinci is the CEO of Vinci Digital with over 20 years of experience in marketing and advertising. He partners with mid-size, established businesses as a growth and scalability consultant and strategic branding advisor as well as offering a full-suite of agency services. Gerald calls Carmel, CA home with his wife Safira and two children. He has co-authored two books, and is working on his own upcoming book titled, “Small Business Pricing Mastery – Creating effective pricing and defining value for today’s products and services.”