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Tips for Nonprofit Communicators: PR Best Practices with Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

By Beth Monroe, Public Relations Director, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Those of us who work for nonprofits know collaboration is important, yet sometimes it?s the most challenging part of our jobs. This can be especially true when you?re doing public relations for a nonprofit. If the nonprofit even has a PR department, it?s usually only a one or two-person shop with many other responsibilities.

That?s why I?m excited ConnectVAand PRSA Richmond have joined forces to provide a Communications and Marketing Message Board to answer public relations questions and share best practices. I?m also honored to have been asked to provide a success story from my nonprofit organization Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

Dominion GardenFest of Lights at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is a favorite holiday tradition for thousands of people. With more than half-a-million lights, model trains and botanical decorations, it?s a highly visual, family-friendly event. This makes it a good fit for the photo-sharing social media platform Instagram.

Learn more about nonprofits and Instagram in Beth Kanter?s blog Nonprofits and Instagram: The Ultimate Curated Collection of the Best Practices, Examples and Tips.

Last year, the Garden launched its first ever Instagram contest during GardenFest, inviting people to follow @LewisGinter on Instagram and to upload their original photos using the #GardenFest hashtag and tagging @LewisGinter. The contest was so popular (more than 700 people entered!) that we?re doing it again: Dominion GardenFest of Lights 2014 Instagram Contest

Prizes include a Science Museum of Virginia membership, tickets to Richmond Ballet and Richmond Symphony performances.  These great Richmond nonprofits were happy to collaborate with us in order to support our work and gain some social media exposure in the process. It?s a win-win for all.

An Instagram contest engages people and it can provide great user generated content (UGC). The Garden incorporated photos from last year?s contest for the cover for this year?s newsletter and rack card.

The Garden?s public relations coordinator Jonah Holland offers the following additional tips for Instagram contests:

Partner with other nonprofits for prizes, tag them and cross promote on social media.

Choose a short and memorable hashtag; make sure it?s not already being used!

 Make sure you have a rules page with a disclaimer allowing use of images for promotional purposes. Link to it often.

 Use #Instagram and #Contest hashtags to promote the contest itself via an Instagram photo or ?postcard.?

 Promote the contest through event signage.

If your organization is not on Instagram, you could do a similar contest on Facebook.

Have a question or want to tell your success story? Use the Communications and Marketing Message Board to learn, connect and share. 

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