You can act as a public relations specialist for your school, scout troop, or sports team. Organize a book and toy drive to benefit kids at a local shelter, send a box of supplies to troops stationed overseas, or simply organize your friends to clean up litter in the park. Afterward, you can send a press release documenting your good deeds, the participants, and any other details to your local newspaper, cable network, or radio station. Your group will not only gain name recognition, but satisfaction in giving back to the community.
Corporations, both large and small, have recognized the benefits of maintaining a positive image with their employees, shareholders and competing businesses. Many corporations today also work hard to uphold this image with the public as well. Corporate community relations directors develop and implement strategies to establish good relations between their employer and the community. They act as a company liaison to the community, other businesses, the government, the media, and various interest groups.
Some corporate community relations departments have programs that promote a particular business product or service. The computer giant IBM, for example, has taken an interest in boosting the computer science skills of high schools students by providing free access to computer science resources. Other companies may task their corporate community relations team to implement programs or sponsor events unrelated to their main business practice. For example, Bank of America, has long been a major sponsor of many sporting and family-oriented events. In the Chicago area, it sponsors events such as the Chicago Marathon, the Shamrock Shuffle, and various concerts, as well as major art restoration projects in nine countries and 11 U.S. cities and Puerto Rico through its Art Conservation Project. While these events enrich the lives of many Chicagoans, especially in the areas of sports and culture, they also provide priceless promotion, name recognition, and positive public relations for the corporation.
Corporate community relations directors also recognize the benefits of working within the local community the company serves. Directors employed by Target Corporation, for example, help improve local schools, libraries, and neighborhood music programs by developing programs that provide assistance through financial or product donations and matching grants.
Corporate community relations directors use a variety of methods to demonstrate their company's corporate citizenship. They may encourage employee participation in community events such as blood and clothing drives, charitable giving at holiday-specific events (such as Toys for Tots), and financial donations during times of national crisis. They may recruit employees to volunteer at food pantries or participate as tutors or mentors to inner city children. Corporate community relations directors may also assemble employee teams to represent the company at sporting events, whether as competitors or volunteers.
The ability to communicate well is imperative in this career. Corporate community relations directors work closely with all forms of media—newspapers and magazines, television, radio, and the Internet—often providing press releases that detail their company's latest philanthropic projects. They are often responsible for posting summaries of these activities at their company's Web site. The CEO or another company executive may consult with the corporate community relations team before meeting with shareholders or attending a public event. Directors may be asked to help write speeches, or give a speech when acting as the company's representative. At times they might need to use their media savvy to troubleshoot any conflicts between the company and the community. A good corporate community relations director is able to "spin" any crisis situation to portray their company in the best light possible.
Experienced corporate community relations directors may conduct public tours of the company facilities. They may also be in charge of organizing the opening of a corporate-sponsored art show, awards dinner, or traveling museum exhibit. They may need to contact event planners to organize catering and setup services, hire photographers to document the event, and work with designers to provide input on the design of invitations for the gala, among other tasks.