One of America’s founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin is credited with the aphorism: “Do well by doing good.”
The phrase 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 homes in on the notion that we can achieve personal, business or career success through good works.
The truth of this is clear when you do pro bono PR work for causes or organizations in which you believe.
The term “pro bono” fully expressed 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, and 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. Here are four:
1. Pro bono work allows you to grow your network.
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 member has other interests, but has signed on for a common goal.
By getting to know these people— and more importantly, by demonstrating your own skills and talents to them first-hand—you are likely to form bonds and relationships that will grow your network and lead to other opportunities going forward.
2. You’ll sharpen your skills.
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.