Anyone who’s worked in PR may have heard the phrase, “Do well by doing good.” One of America’s founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying that among many others.
“Do well by doing good,” is more than a mantra for the PR field.
In some corners it has long been an unofficial definition of public relations itself. The phrase zeroes in on the notion that we can achieve personal, business or career success through good works.
This is most readily apparent when we do pro bono PR work. That’s the free sharing of your time and talents for causes or organizations in which you believe.
The term’s full name in Latin is “pro bono publico” (for the public good), which represents professional work we do voluntarily and without compensation.
The difference between pro bono work and community volunteerism is that when we do pro bono work, it is assumed we are sharing our professional talents or skills with a cause or organization in need of those specific skills. Volunteering is not so specific represents any sort of effort we provide free of charge.
The general nature of pro bono public relations work usually assumes the beneficiary is a nonprofit organization. Because pro bono work is rooted in your own professional skillsets, it can be deemed of higher value to the beneficiary than simple volunteering. If you’ve ever served on a board of directors or a committee for a nonprofit organization, you’ve done pro bono work.
In doing so, you may have experienced some of the major benefits of it. Here are four.
When you serve on a committee or board of directors, you’re likely to meet other professionals and community leaders you wouldn’t have met otherwise. Like you, each individual has other interests.
By getting to know these people, but more importantly, by demonstrating your own skills and talents to them first-hand, you are likely to form bonds and relationships that can grow your network and lead to other opportunities going forward.
In one of the pro bono projects I’ve done for many years, I’ve had the opportunity to keep my consumer media relations skills sharp in ways that I normally would not.
That’s because my day-to-day focus is corporate communications, not consumer public relations. This intentional shift out of my comfort zone helps me stay on top of the latest tools, strategies and techniques in the PR field across multiple disciplines, while at the same time enabling me to maintain and build new relationships with individual journalists.
Perhaps in your day-to-day work at your organization, you don’t have the opportunity to use certain social media tools or measurement tools. Maybe you’re not the go-to person in your organization to develop a WordPress website. Or maybe in your day-job there isn’t much call for an event planner. But these are all skills you want to develop to add to your own toolbox.
Pro bono work may provide you with an opportunity to take on something totally new and develop a new skill. Because the beneficiary organization isn’t paying you, there is less risk on their part for you to learn something new in a real-world setting.
In the end, the most important benefit of pro bono PR work is the self-satisfaction you may get from knowing you are making a difference for your community.
Nonprofit organizations cannot function without the non-compensated time and talents donated by professionals in the law, finance, accounting and public relations. When you share your talents with a cause or nonprofit in which you believe, you are making a difference.
What are some of the ways you have benefited from doing well by doing good? Let us know on Twitter.
Tim O’Brien is owner of Pittsburgh-based O’Brien Communications, a corporate communications consultancy. He has over 30 years’ experience in communications and started his career as a journalist.
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