Public Relations audit and recommendations for Warrnambool and District Food Share, a local not-for-profit who provide food relief to those in need.
Due to a range of factors including unforeseen expenses and bill shock as well as being part of a marginalised group, many Australians experience times when money is short (Foodbank 2016, p.8). Sometimes this leads to people and their families going hungry which causes negative emotions and health effects that can have detrimental consequences to people’s wellbeing and productivity. In an effort to confront this growing issue, food share programs have been rolled-out nationwide to provide emergency food relief for those in need. This report outlines the situation, target publics and past public relations activities of Warrnambool and District Food Share (W&DFS). It also proposes a message strategy which aims to increase awareness of W&DFS and generate donations and sustained action from the Warrnambool community.
According to the Foodbank Hunger Report 2016, one in six people in Australia sought food relief in the twelve months before the report’s publication, 33 percent of whom were children (p.7). Low income families are the main recipients of food relief, however, the diversity of other recipients: young and old, male and female, unemployed and employed, reflects a growing crises that affects the whole community.
Established in 2010, Warrnambool and District Food Share (W&FDS) was formed in response to the Warrnambool region being identified as an area in critical need of an emergency food relief program (Warrnambool and District Food Share 2010, Cormac 2015).
W&DFS is a not-for-profit organisation that seeks to overcome hunger in the Warrnambool area by sourcing and distributing food relief hampers for people and families in times of need. W&DFS is not open directly to the public and distribute food through over sixty local agencies and more than thirty local schools (Warrnambool and District Food Share 2010).
In 2016 alone, W&DFS distributed over 130,000 kilograms of food in roughly 4500 food hampers to over 11000 people including 2268 families*. These figures are nearly double the totals from 2014, demonstrating a significant rise in the need for food relief in just two years.*
W&DFS is an independent organisation that relies on grants, partnerships and donations from the community, local industry and business sector to supply and fund operations. W&DFS also depends on Food Bank Victoria and a number of local businesses and chain supermarkets to provide nutritional food through food rescue programs (Warrnambool and District Food Share 2010).
W&DFS enjoys a significant amount of support from the local community including small businesses, supermarket chains, schools, clubs, organisations and the general public. W&DFS seems to have a reasonably strong relationship with local newspaper The Standard, who have published several articles about the organisation each year for the past three years.
An extensive SWOT analysis was conducted with key findings set out below.
- W&DFS is an established organisation that has strong support and a positive reputation within the local community. This gives W&DFS an edge, as according to Smith, “The stronger the organization’s visibility and the more positive its reputation, the greater the ability it has to build on this positive base” (2013, p.46).
- W&DFS has existing strong partnerships with local industry and businesses. These partnerships are mutually beneficial, increasing supplies and donations for W&DFS as well as providing an opportunity for industry and businesses to demonstrate their corporate social responsibility (Austin and Pinkleton 2015).
- W&DFS have an extremely limited public relations budget which will continue to affect their capacity to market themselves and fund campaigns.
- W&DFS use social media inefficiently. Dual Facebook pages with different information on each is confusing to target publics. Fully leveraging social media can be the most cost effective way to communicate with target publics (Kinzey 2013).
- There are a number of discrepancies and errors among the secondary data provided by W&DFS. Transparency and accuracy are integral to managing W&DFS’s reputation and in satisfying the concerns of prospective donors (Austin and Pinkleton 2015, Smith 2013).
- That opportunities exist for forming new partnerships and sponsorships with local industries, businesses and organisations. Building on the strong relationships already established, W&DFS has an opportunity to forge partnerships and sponsorships with local industry and businesses. Partnerships with trusted businesses are mutually beneficial, increasing awareness about both organisations and leading to more funding for not-for-profits, more sales for and goodwill toward the business and an increased likelihood of generating additional donations (Kinzey 2013).
- That the need for food relief is a growing crisis, both in Warrnambool and Australia wide. Between 2014 and 2016, the number of people receiving food relief from W&DFS increased by over 30% annually *. Additionally, recent changes to family payments, a $254 million reduction in the Department of Social Services Discretionary Grant Program and the recent Centrelink debt debacle have the potential to increase the demand for W&DFS’s service because low income families and unemployed individuals are the main recipients of food relief (Foodbank 2016). Along with these factors, population growth, slow economic growth and the rising costs of living could potentially force others into a position where they also require food relief, stretching W&DFS’s resources.
- That even though W&DFS is the only organisation of its kind in the Warrnambool region, they are still in competition with a number of local and national not-for-profits and require community support and donations to continue operations. As Patterson and Radtke point out, “every nonprofit is in competition for attention with a great many worthy issues and causes” (2009, p.66). W&DFS require over $60000 annually to continue operations (Warrnambool and District Food Share n.d.). They also rely on the community to donate food and volunteer their time to help run operations.
Smith defines a strategic public as a “public with which an organization chooses to engage in communication and relationship “ (2013, p.490). W&DFS’s target publics are segmented according to the linkage categories presented in Smith, 2013 and analysed using demographic and psychographic information. Appropriate appeal types and Grunig and Hunt’s four stages of publics (1984 in Smith, 2013) are also considered.
- Service recipients in the Warrnambool area
This public is made up of customers. They are targeted because they require assistance and need to know how and where to access W&DFS’s services. A logical appeal would be more appropriate as they are aware that they need help, but may be unaware of existing services and how to access them.
Demographic: This public is demographically diverse in terms of age, employment status, marital and family situation, ethnicity and gender. It is predominantly made up of low income earners and high-risk groups (Foodbank 2016). As a predominantly low income group, service recipients are more likely to be unskilled and semi-skilled workers and are less likely to be as formally educated than higher income groups.
Psychographic: This public is more likely to struggle with financial hardships. They seek a fairer deal and often depend on social assistance.
- Potential Donors
This strategic public may act as enablers and are targeted because they either have the means to make financial donations to fundraising efforts or donate food. The community support already enjoyed by W&DFS demonstrates that a significant portion of the community are active. As aware and latent publics are also potential donors, appeals should balance logic and emotion to generate more awareness and encourage action.
Demographic: Warrnambool’s top three industries are Healthcare, Retail and Manufacturing and its top three occupations are Professionals, Technicians and Trades Workers, and Labourers (.id 2016). This demonstrates that W&DFS’s potential donors come from diverse demographics.
Psychographic: This public is psychographically diverse. They have higher incomes than service recipients, are more likely to have stable social and financial circumstances and more motivation to ‘give back’.
- The Warrnambool and District business sector
The local business sector are enablers and producers. This public is crucial to providing material and financial donations through sponsorships, partnerships, food drives and philanthropy. They may be active, aware or latent publics. Appeals should balance logic and emotion to generate more awareness and encourage action as well as highlighting the benefits to a business’s image and reputation.
Demographic: This public is made up of small businesses and owners including tradespeople, those providing services, retailers and the hospitality industry.
Psychographic: These publics want to contribute to the wellbeing of their community as well as be recognised for their efforts.
- National, State and Local Industry
Industry, including major retailers, utilities providers, health care and manufacturing companies are producers and enablers. This public is targeted because it is crucial to providing material and financial donations through sponsorships, partnerships and philanthropy. Although similar to the above, this public is more likely to have a larger pool of resources and a greater commitment, or obligation, to corporate social responsibility. Several members of this public have already been engaged by W&DFS and are active, however there are at least six other major business in the area who are either latent or aware and inactive publics W&DFS (Regional Development Victoria 2016). Appeals to this strategic public should be logical and emphasise the benefits of community engagement and corporate social responsibility.
Demographic: This public consists of large businesses and corporations in the Warrnambool area as well as chain supermarkets and other state and nationwide businesses.
Psychographic: This public employs a significant portion of Warrnambool’s population, they want to contribute to the wellbeing of the community and ensure its goodwill.
- Volunteers and Staff
Volunteers and staff are producers. They are an active public who are crucial to supporting W&DFS’s operations. Appeals should be emotional and logical, demonstrating appreciation of there efforts as well as emphasising milestones, achievements and contributions through statistics.
Demographic: Volunteers and staff are demographically diverse, consisting of retired people, students gaining work experience, correctional services clients, Newstart recipients and other community members (Himmelreich 2014).
Psychographic: This public are values driven. They are people seeking to give back and contribute to the wellbeing of the Warrnambool community.
- Government and Policy Makers
This strategic public can be either enablers or limiters. They may be latent, aware or active publics and are targeted because they make policy and laws which affect the not-for-profit, welfare and social services sectors. They may also offer grants to community organisations and charities. Appeals to this group should be logical and economy focused as their decisions can have significant impact on service recipients, industry and business partnership and donor base.
Demographic: Government and policy makers are generally highly educated, high income earners and high achievers.
Psychographic: Depending upon their political orientation they may be less likely to support social spending yet more likely to encourage and incentivise corporate partnerships.
Past and Current Tactics
To date, W&DFS’s public relations operations have included media releases, word of mouth, social media and online crowdfunding along with several fundraising sponsorships from local organisations, businesses and identities through public events.
W&DFS has engaged local industry by forging partnerships with supermarket chains, Aldi, Coles and Woolworths, transport company, Ryan Logistics and energy supplier, Powercor for the extremely successful fundraising event “The Tour De Depot” in 2014 (Cormack 2015) *.
W&DFS’s media coverage consists of several articles appearing in local newspaper, The Standard, each year. Media publicity generally occurs during W&DFS’s August appeal week, when large donations are made and when fundraising events are held.
W&DFS’s August appeal Food Share Week is a particularly effective tactic to engage the Warrnambool and District community, with food donations more than doubling each year since 2014 *.
SMART Objectives for 2017
- To have a greater impact on Facebook by doubling page likes and follows over the course of the year.
- To set benchmarks and record statistics that enable comparisons.
- To establish either one corporate sponsorship for a fundraising campaign, i.e. a community event; or one corporate partnership to supply food, services, materials or philanthropy.
- To increase donations by 30 percent.
Strategy and Tactics
Patterson and Radtke assert that, “The challenge for nonprofits is to articulate their values clearly so that people can relate to the mission, connect to the underlying values, and commit to take action” (2009, p.8). The following communication strategy is recommended for W&DFS to achieve its objectives.
Sharing a clear and consistent vision with the community builds credibility and loyalty as well as generates more opportunities to build donor bases and strengthen relations with existing ones (Hartnett and Matan 2011; Kinzey 2013). Continuing to tell W&DFS’s story through social media will keep the community engaged by informing them about W&DFS’s milestones, achievements, awards, major donations and events and to show appreciation to donors, volunteers, sponsors, partners and the Warrnambool community.
Recommendations for Facebook include consolidating W&DFS’s two pages into one which will avoid confusion and possibly increase likes and follows. As people often seek information from the most convenient and accessible source (Austin and Pinkleton 2015, p.298), Facebook remains an effective communications tool to inform potential users how to access services. The section titled “Who can access W&DFS” on the older Facebook page should be transferred to the current page. It should emphasise the ease of accessing W&DFS’s service and assure potential users of their privacy.
Schwartz and Gibb highlight the importance of implementing benchmarks into public relations strategies (1999). It is recommended that W&DFS initiate record keeping that allows benchmarks to be identified and measured. It is also recommended that W&DFS look externally towards other organisations who provide the same the service and how they operate. Shepparton Food Share is a similar organisation who operate in a slightly larger population to W&DFS. By observing what other organisations do, W&DFS can increase efficiency, awareness, support and donations.
Modern public relations hinges on mutually beneficial relationships and corporate social responsibility is fast becoming standard practice (Austin and Pinkleton 2015). By forming partnerships and sponsorships, W&DFS can obtain more support while the partner organisation can demonstrate their social responsibility and reinforce their own image.
Recommendations to achieve this objective include compiling a media kit to generate interest as well as a focus on accurate book keeping practices in order to manage W&DFS’s reputation and satisfy the scrutiny of potential partners. Additionally, as partnerships, like all relationships, have a life cycle, “it is always wise to watch for new partnership opportunities” (Kinzey 2013, p.133).
Citing research conducted by the Gallup Organisation in the USA, Wilcox, Cameron and Reber contend that “assisting the less fortunate” is the primary reason that people donate to not-for-profit organisations (2015, p.562). The second most frequent motivation is personal satisfaction (ibid.). By continuing to highlight the issue of hunger in Warrnambool and emphasising the contributions made by the local community, people will feel motivated and appreciated and more likely to donate again or encourage others to. With minimal public relations resources and activities, food donations to W&DFS rose by 10 percent from 2015 to 2015 and a further 26 percent from 2015 to 2016 *.
To meet a 30 percent increase in donations, it is recommended that W&DFS continue telling their story through media releases and social media with increased frequency. Announcing and celebrating the achievements and milestones of W&DFS and its supporters will demonstrate the positive impact of the organisation and can be leveraged to garner media attention. Using figures dating back to October 2013, W&DFS are on track in 2017 to have distributed half a million kilograms of food to theWarrnambool and District community *. This is an ideal example that could be used to generate publicity and donations.
For many Australians, food relief could mean the difference between missing a mortgage repayment or not being able to afford rent and bills for the month. Warrnambool and District Food Share aim to decrease hunger in the Warrnambool area by distributing food hampers to those in need. By analysing secondary research, insight was gained into W&DFS along with a deeper understanding of the situation they face. Taking strategic publics and SMART objectives into consideration, recommendations toward increasing awareness of W&DFS and generating donations and sustained action from the Warrnambool community have been proposed.
* Warrnambool and District Food Share data and statistics provided by Donald Swanson through Deakin sync.
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