• Hayley Wheeler

How nonprofit PR compares to pro bono work with empath worldwide

My summer internship working in media and communications for a non-profit organization prepared me for my role as a volunteer creative at empath worldwide in many ways. It helped me realign my values and continue looking for ways to leverage professional skills to help my community.

Something about working with non-profit and pro bono clients feels different than a traditional paid relationship between a client and an agency. Here are a few ways these two work experiences have shaped my outlook on what a career in PR can look like.

High morale

Unlike other corporate environments, the people who work in nonprofit and pro bono public relations are especially passionate about the work they are doing. Their work is mission-driven rather than profit-driven, which makes a difference in company culture. According to research published in the Public Relations Journal, PR professionals think “the break from a bottom-line focused project to a better-world focused project is enriching.”

When everyone shares similar values, it makes you feel a lot more connected with your teammates as well.

Allows you to make a difference while sharpening professional skills

Although both experiences helped build my professional portfolio, the job positions were founded on a desire to help others which is what drew me to apply. As an in-house PR specialist at a non-profit, they are looking to you as an expert to promote their mission. Without media outreach and a social media presence in 2020, it is hard to get the word out about your organization’s meaningful initiatives and donation opportunities. Therefore, you are improving on your hard skills, whether that be using photoshop to create graphics for social media and newsletters or writing press releases to notify media about a fundraising event, while helping spread the word about an important cause. Similarly, empath worldwide was founded on this desire to help those who need it most. Many companies and organizations can no longer afford an agency or an in-house staffer, but that doesn’t mean that the public shouldn’t hear about their services or products. The founding team at empath recognized this need for accessible public relations aid during a global pandemic and provided a way for young talent to hone their skills. This foundational idea of helping your community, whether that be at a statewide nonprofit or in several communities through a worldwide agency, made working at empath an easy transition from the non-profit space.

Client relationships

Many pro bono clients are smaller companies that may not have ever had a PR specialist. This means they really rely on their agency for everything from social media and website design to media relations and event planning. And now more than ever, with work moving remote and communication becoming fully digital, close relationships with PR professionals are increasingly important. Although empath worldwide is an agency, creatives often work on one account and really get to know the ins and outs of the brand; forging a strong relationship with the client. Yet, we still hear about all of the other client work during team meetings. This makes the opportunity feel like an in-house position within an agency setting.

Remote work

Logistically, my non-profit internship taught me how to work remotely with people I have never met in person. It can be a challenging hump to get over when you don’t know your team members work style and can’t communicate with them face to face. Plus, Zoom fatigue is real! However, I learned a lot of communication and teamwork techniques throughout the summer that have helped me perform better at empath.

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