25 Top PR Agency Community Involvement Programs: Part II
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Holmes Report

25 Top PR Agency Community Involvement Programs: Part II

Tough economic times didn’t adversely impact the philanthropic efforts of Edward Howard & Co. In fact, the firm donated more than $660,000 in professional time to more than 100 different community organizations.

Paul Holmes

1. Edward Howard & Co.

Tough economic times didn’t adversely impact the philanthropic efforts of Cleveland-based Edward Howard & Co., where volunteerism and community involvement are an important part of the culture. In fact, the firm donated more than $660,000 in professional time (over 3,150 hours of staff time at all levels) to more than 100 different community organizations in 2003—more time at a greater value donated than the year before. 

One reason for the shift is a new plan that adjusts the requirements for billable time and for new business development, firm marketing, and community involvement—activities designed to build a future for the firm and the community—so that senior staff can devote more time to these latter initiatives. Another is that community involvement is a requirement that is spelled out in detail in each job description and evaluated at review time.

So in 2003 Edward Howard became involved in a partnership with The International Children’s Games, which will be held in Cleveland in July, attracting more than 3,000 athletes from countries around the world. The firm is providing public relations support for the entire event, including event planning, graphic design and international media relations assistance. The firm also lends support to the Cleveland Chapter of City Year, a national service organization that utilizes the talents of young leaders to provide service to communities throughout the nation, while the Columbus office works with Action for Children, a group committed to assuring that quality childcare and early childhood education are available to every child in central Ohio.

The firm also works with Harvest for Hunger, an organization that supports Ohio food banks and hunger programs. Several staff members volunteered their time and resources to make soups to share with other staff members, who were asked to make a cash donation to Harvest for Hunger in order to participate. 

2. Edelman

Edelman has been a corporate partner of America’s Promise, one of the leading organizations dedicated to aiding inner-city youth, since it was founded in 1997, and individual offices that provide internships to students place special emphasis on internships for inner-city youth at several offices. Indeed, most of the firm’s community involvement is on a local level, with each office having its own volunteerism committee that organizes charitable activities.

The firm’s Atlanta Community Team, for example, coordinates volunteerism efforts that have included building a home for Habitat for Humanity and selecting other charitable organizations to which employee volunteer their time. In 2003, Atlanta employees partnered with Absolutely Incredible Kids Day to provide letters of encouragement to inner-city children and coordinated a food drive around the holidays. And to celebrate Edelman’s 50th anniversary, employees elected to provide 50 hours of pro bono counsel to the Atlanta Community Food Bank to support its fund-raising efforts to feed the hungry. The office also works with 2003 AIDS Walk Atlanta and the Atlanta Chapter of the American Red Cross. As a result of these efforts, the firm was awarded Company of the Year honors by the Council of Volunteer Administrators. 

In Chicago, meanwhile, the Vision, Mission, Values Committee coordinates the office’s charitable activities. More than 30 Chicago staff members volunteered to clean up an inner-city high school as part of a citywide program, the Chicago Cares Serve-a-Thon. More than 50 employees contributed blood to LifeSource. The American Cancer Society’s “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” walk on Mother’s Day drew several Edelman participants and a team of runners from Edelman raised nearly $1,200 for the Gus Foundation, which benefits children with pediatric brain tumors, the deadliest form of cancer among children. Employees contributed more than 500 food items that were distributed to food pantries, shelters, senior centers and daycare facilities through the Greater Chicago Food Depository, and donated six large boxes of toys that the Off the Street Club distributed to needy children. In addition, the Chicago office provided pro-bono counsel to Operation Homelink, which donates computers to families of servicemen so they can stay in touch via email; Rainbows, which helps children who have lost parents due to death, divorce or incarceration; and the Illinois Arts Alliance Foundation.

3. PainePR

In the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, a group of public relations and marketing executives—inspired by the courage of industry colleague Mark Bingham, a passenger of the flight that crashed in Pittsburgh—came to together to create One Day’s Pay, a national initiative urging citizens, businesses, schools and other groups to honor the victims of the attacks by observing September 11 as a national day of voluntary service, charity and compassion.

“Americans want to pay special tribute on that day, and we cannot think of a better expression than to rekindle and sustain the spirit of generosity, humanity and concern that turned strangers into neighbors and unified our entire nation during a very tragic time in our history,” says David Paine, who serves as president of One Day’s Pay. PainePR contributed $35,000 in cash to the group last year, and another $100,000 in pro bono services. More than 100,000 people observed September 11 this way in 2003, including a number of public relations firms.

Meanwhile, PainePR continues to provide extensive, ongoing pro bono assistance to local charities including the United Way (the firm has a formal giving program in-house); Public Broadcasting Service; We Care Soup Kitchen and other local nonprofit organizations.

4. Text 100

Text 100 gives both globally and locally.

For the third year in a row, Text 100 sponsored a Holiday Charitable Giving Campaign in lieu of exchanging holiday gifts, with a holiday card that invited clients and friends of the agency to visit a special website and select a charity from a list of global humanitarian causes. The site updated in real time—a fitting approach for a technology PR firm—so visitors could see what portion of the total amount would go to each charity.

In addition, members of the firm’s Boston office purchased their holiday pies from Pie in the Sky, a program that uses the money to feed a family of four on Thanksgiving; the New York office collected over $400 to spend on toys for Toys for Tots; the Seattle office collected more than 15 grocery bags of food to donate to Northwest Harvest, an organization helping needy families in the Pacific Northwest; the San Francisco office purchased its holiday tree from the Delancey Street Foundation, an organization that provides a structured educational and living environment in which ex-felons and substance abusers, can learn the skills they need to rebuild their lives; team members from the Boston office donated time to Mothers Against Drunk Driving; and the Rochester office bought gifts for specific children at the Hillside Children’s Center, which provides health services to children and youth with special education needs, mental health issues and welfare cases. Finally, Text 100 New York walked and ran in the 2003 AIDS Walk New York, raising $3,750 and beating the previous year’s total by $2,150.

5. Weber Shandwick

“Because we operate across so many different countries and cultures, we believe that community involvement programs are best established on a local basis,” says Barbara Melchin, human resources director for Weber Shandwick Worldwide.

To some extent, the Minneapolis office—formerly Mona Meyer McGrath & Gavin—has been an example for the rest of the organization, with a 20 year history of supporting local non-profit organizations through pro bono client relationships, mentorships, work projects and an annual day-long workshop designed to help non-profits effectively tell their stories. Over the past 10 years, the Minneapolis office has provided more than $1 million in pro bono support to more than 30 organizations, and for the past 15 years, the office has been recognized by the Minnesota Keystone Program for giving five percent of pre-tax earnings back to the community.

As the firm seeks to build a global culture that incorporates best practices from individual offices, several other locations are following the Minneapolis office’s lead. The New York office, for example, has worked with the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, and became pro bono agency of record for the Central Park Conservancy’s 150th anniversary. In Washington, D.C., the firm’s Powell Tate and Sawyer Miller subsidiaries developed a PSA campaign for the Armed Forces Relief Trust. And overseas, the Hong Kong office is working with Unicef and the Hong Kong Anti-Cancer Society, while the Singapore office has adopted the Singapore Riding for the Disabled Association.

6. CarryOn Communication

“Responsible citizenship is one of CarryOn’s five guiding principles. Says the firm, “We seek to improve the quality of life in the communities where we live and work…. We foster an atmosphere that supports and encourages community involvement. We contribute time, talent and resources to make a difference in the lives of others. We behave responsibly toward our environment.”

CarryOn’s efforts in the past year include work with LA Youth, a group that produces a weekly newspaper written by teens for teens. CarryOn is a member of the board of directors, providing PR counsel and services valued at $80,000 last year. In 2003, CarryOn worked extensively to launch and promote the Movement of the Heart Foundation, based in Harlem, which supports the physical and spiritual healing of abused women throughout New York City and its surrounding communities. To date, CarryOn has committed more than 650 hours to the foundation, including development of all media materials, a comprehensive branding campaign and messaging elements, valued at $160,000. CarryOn is a corporate friend of the MS Society of Washington, D.C., and holds a seat on the board of directors of the Lupus Foundation of Greater Washington.

In addition, CarryOn chief executive Kevin Grainger holds a board position on the Gay Games 2006, providing PR counsel and services for the bid to have the 2006 Gay Games held in Los Angeles. In addition to two employees traveling to Australia to present the Los Angeles bid, CarryOn provided more than 230 hours developing the plan and presentation, and sponsored and provided a fundraiser to support the bid. 

7. Fleishman-Hillard

Fleishman-Hillard was one of several agencies that participated in activities designed to support U.S. troops overseas last year, sending boxes of snacks, toiletries, and personal messages of support to servicemen stationed overseas.

In addition, the firm maintained several corporate philanthropic activities, including support for the Girl Scouts’ annual April Showers drive; serving lunch at local homeless shelters; adopting more than 20 needy families during the holiday season; participating in both March of Dimes and Habitat for Humanity programs; joining in the Susan Komen Foundation’s Race for the Cure breast cancer campaign; and providing pro-bono support to causes including the Boy Scouts; Paraquad, which assists the disabled with mobility and access issues; YWCA; and Sunny Hill Adventures, a summer camp program for disabled children.

The firm’s St. Louis headquarters, meanwhile, continues to support Challenger Baseball, a program founded by an FH employee that provides disabled children the opportunity to play in a real baseball league. A number of FH employees assist at games and have done some great PR work to earn recognition and community support for the program. 

Part II

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