Today is Blog Action Day. Almost 9,600 bloggers with over 10 million readers will take over the Internet to talk about one topic: poverty.
Blog Action Day 2007’s topic? The environment – last year I wrote about why you need environmental PR.
I’ll be honest: writing about the environment was easier for me. Poverty is a complex topic that touches many tangents, including hunger, housing and overall quality of life. I know that as I write this there are people here in my community-and yours-who need help. That’s why this Blog Action Day post is about how to use publicity to raise awareness about poverty in your town.
15 Ways to Make Poverty an Issue that People Want to Support
1 Organize Around the Issue
How is your organization changing lives? What service do you provide to make life better? Ask people what they were looking for when they found you – both the people you serve and the people that serve them. Put what you do in their words.
2 Preserve Dignity by Protecting Privacy
Use first names, initials or change names and locations to hide identities. When I wrote a Welfare to Work brochure for Sears, Roebuck & Co., I got to interview several women who had stories that begged to be told. They were, but no one knew who they were about. What did come through? The power of giving someone a second chance at being successful.
3 Talk about the Cause
What causes poverty? Why are people poor? It’s not because they don’t want to work. In fact, many of the working poor work more than one job. When I interviewed formerly homeless women, they told me about student loans that required them to pay double or triple their loan amount, medical bills that soared out of control and credit card debt at high interest levels. What’s the cause? Quite often, it’s managing the cost of living. Or, it could be losing a job.
4 Identify the Tipping Point
How many people in your area are one or two paychecks away from being homeless? What’s the poverty line where you are? Did you know the average age of a homeless person in the US is nine years old? This last statistic puts a face on poverty that surprises people.
5 Quote Volunteers and Donors
“I’m volunteering because my friends are homeless. Alan’s getting has master’s degree, but he lost his grant at the university. Anna’s got a degree, but she just had Anna and Alex. With twins, it’s hard for her to work. They lost their apartment. I know they’ll be okay, probably sooner than later, but there are other people out there who need more help.” a young woman told me when I asked why she supported Sleep Out Saturday, a county-wide sleep out hosted by Bridge Communities on November 1, 2008 to raise funds to help homeless families in transition.
6 Get to Know the Media
Call reporters and let them know about the issue. Hold a press conference to talk about the issue of poverty and homelessness in your community and invite an educated panel to address the public. Have a sign up sheet and a receiving person ready to take names and donations.
7 Distribute Press Releases Online
Using a free or low-cost service like WebWire, you can get your news out and in search engines so that you can be found. Post the releases in an online newsroom you can set up with a free service like PitchEngine.
8 Start a Blog – Membership Site
Set up a place where you can tell your story and give your community a place to participate with a service like Wild Apricot. Set up a free online community and social networking site on ning, if you don’t have the budget to build a website.
9 Accept Donations Online
Add the link to your donation site in every communication; set up an account with paypal or set up a free ChipIn fundraising collection device.
10 Leverage Partner Communications
Churches, scout groups and businesses can volunteer to assist you in exchange for promotion in the organization’s publication. They can also promote your organization in their communication channels on and offline.
11 Build a Database
Give people a way to subscribe to email updates with service levels along with a call for volunteers and donors as needed. Use your direct mail list to drop inexpensive post cards every other month to stay in touch.
12 Set up a Google Alert
Google offers a service that emails you every time your organization is mentioned.
13 Sign onto twitter
You may not know what twitter is yet, read the twitter guide for ways to use twitter . Search for people in your community on twitter, follow them and ask them if they will help you promote your organization.
14 Set up a Facebook page
Having a page on Facebook is optional, but recommended if you want to be the one that manages a group that people can join for more information about your group.
15 . . . .
Image: rainbow in late fall sky at the Morton Arboretum by Barbara Rozgonyi taken for Blog Action Day 2008, 10-14-08 copyright 2008