As Canada’s most connected event and association management company, we are pleased to publish guest blogs by our partners. This post is written by Cathy Cowan, President of Cowan & Company Communications (C&C) ~ a Toronto-based PR boutique for first-class consumer brands.

Everyone these days is looking for ways to stretch their marketing dollars as far as they will go. But, even if money is not a concern, how do you build awareness as efficiently and effectively as possible?

An often overlooked communications channel is your stakeholders. By enlisting and empowering your members, regional offices, franchisees, and employees as PR Ambassadors you can achieve an instant mass reach that would otherwise take your communications team copious weeks and thousands of dollars.

For example, C&C helped Kraft Canada and Food Banks Canada coordinate and promote the Kraft Hunger Challenge, an annual fundraiser to support Canadian food banks and Canada’s hungry from 2006 – 2011. In addition to the national promotions for this fundraiser, we developed a PR Tool Kit for Food Bank Canada’s provincial associations and food banks across the country. By providing busy members with professional, ready-to-go PR materials, we made it super quick and easy for them to promote the fundraising campaign in their local markets, increasing the campaign’s audience reach and ultimately raising $500,000+ in donations each year.

How do you turn your stakeholders into PR Ambassadors? First you need to think through who your potential ambassadors and communications channels may be in your organization. Is it Members? Regional offices? Franchisees? Employees? Suppliers? Award Winners? Clients? Or, all of the above?

Next, you need to identify your communications platform. What do you want to say and achieve? We find these types of campaigns are most effective when they’re tied to a specific event or a time-sensitive campaign.

Once the participants and platform are identified, one of the simplest and most effective approaches to creating a PR Ambassador program is to develop a PR Tool Kit including:

  • Template News Release / Media Advisory / Public Service Announcements / Fact Sheets – PR materials that include your organization’s key messages and key call-to-action and leave designated spaces for your members to easily insert some of their own local information while staying consistent with the national positioning
  • Media Relations 101 – an overview of how to send the news release to media and bloggers including how to identify local media and how to follow up to offer media interviews to generate stories
  • Social Media Templates – sample Facebook posts and tweets with a unified hashtag they can leverage to create awareness on their social media platforms
  • Advertising Template – for print or online advertisements where the organization can just pop in their local information to an already developed ad and/or they can post your ad on their website
  • Results Spreadsheet – media monitoring is very expensive and can be tricky in small markets, so best to ask your members to report back on their success and send you their media hits, donation summaries, etc. to help you gauge success of the whole program

Once the PR Tool Kit is developed, for optimal success you should host a PR 101 session to walk participants through the materials and the process. This gives you the opportunity to answer their questions and make sure they’re totally prepared to deliver the materials and message to their full potential.

By arming your stakeholders across the country with your message and call-to-action you control your message with the added bonus of having it delivered by a local organization. Local organizations and messages are much more compelling to community media which increases your likelihood for local media coverage. Your members get an easy tool for increasing their awareness at the same time as you get cost-effective local market penetration for your national message. These types of initiatives also engage members on a new level and make them feel part of the organization’s national success. It’s a win-win for everyone!

Cathy Cowan is President of Cowan & Company Communications (C&C) ~ a Toronto-based PR boutique for first-class consumer brands. C&C has been recognized with numerous awards for media relations, special events, social responsibility and marketing communications for our client collaborations. For more information visit or follow on Twitter @cowanandcompany