When considering which larger international social issue charities are doing PR right, it’s easy to point out the Surfrider Foundation. The organization, dedicated to protecting oceans, waves, and beaches around the world, has a clear program for creating and disseminating connective and compelling public relations messaging in support of its initiatives.

One example of that successful work is the promotion and protection of the Tres Palmas Marine Reserve. The marine reserve on the mainland of Puerto Rico, recently celebrated a milestone anniversary, and it stands as a major win for Surfrider, its supporters and international partners. Best of all, Tres Palmas represents the ideal combination of the two reasons many people support Surfrider. They love to surf, and they want to protect the places people love to surf. Tres Palmas is home to a precious and fragile ecosystem connected and supplemented by Elkhorn coral, and it’s also a choice place to catch a wave or just enjoy the water.

How did Surfrider use targeted public relations campaigns to succeed with Tres Palmas? Using a few smart, replicable steps:

Focus on education

It’s one thing to get the word out, it’s something else entirely to compel people to listen and help them understand. Surfrider has done this by focusing on hyperlocal education opportunities and engaging volunteers to help them spread the word in their sphere of influence. The focus on educating and activating influencers in various markets was much more powerful, long-term, than one massive blanket information campaign.

Connecting decision makers

Surfrider used its connection to bring together government at all levels to encourage stakeholders to find a way to close the gap that often exists between government entities, in order to turn ideas into initiatives, initiatives into referendums, and referendums into action. It’s not enough to tell elected officials. You have to make them care enough to act. Then follow up until they do.

Making connections easy

Another way the initiative took off is that the stakeholders made it easy for various interested groups to connect, pool their resources and work together. As they showed influencers in these groups their common goals and shared vision, the groups naturally came together to become greater than the sum of their parts.

Excellence at every level

There are a lot of tools available today to reach out to potential community partners. But if you don’t know how to use these tools, they won’t do you much good. Surfrider brought together experts in communication, tech support, science, economics, law, and marketing to produce excellent education, connections, and communication tools. And they let this excellence speak for them, building trust among constituents.

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.

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