Trusted Media Advisors to Drive Social Change
If news breaks about your giving, are you ready to respond? If you want to share a story about the social change work you are funding, is your audience ready? Whether your answer is yes or no, you are not alone.
When the Tipping Point Community needed a communications plan to help shape its response to the fires in Sonoma County, it turned to a team of professionals based in Oakland. When foundations as diverse as the Stupski Foundation, Y&H Soda Foundation, the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, and even the Packard Foundation needed communications counsel on issues local and global, they reached out to a unique group they knew could help tell their story. And when nonprofits like the Women’s Foundation of California, Greenlining Institute, and Valley Verde found themselves with a need to communicate a major milestone in many languages, they engaged an old friend.
For 20 years, social changemakers across the Bay Area and California have turned to Dan Cohen, his partner Sarah Hersh-Walker, and their team at Full Court Press Communications. What began in 2002 as a dream with a laptop and a sleeping puppy, has become a trusted team that provides a vital resource for organizations working to improve the lives of Californians in every sector of the community.
For a donor and funder, making social change doesn’t happen overnight nor does it happen easily. The issues that matter most require a coordinated effort to change hearts and minds, especially as Californians and Americans become ever-more bifurcated and isolated in their views.
“When I was working on the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation’s initiative to end chronic homelessness, FCP helped us have a conversation with the community by telling powerful stories in new ways. That was essential and the Foundation continues to use this approach to this day,” says Marc Moorghen, the foundation’s former Communications Director.
When Full Court Press, known to its friends and clients as FCP, began, it served the traditional public relations function. “Our job was to get a client in the newspaper… or keep them out,” says Founder Dan Cohen.
But times have changed and now FCP helps clients identify the audiences they want to reach and are able to use the full slate of communications tools to help reach them.
“In the past few years, we’ve developed social media content, television ads, built websites, and even created door-to-door scripts,” Cohen says. “Whatever it takes to help our clients reach their target audience, we can help.”
Clients Bring a Diverse Set of Needs and Challenges
In one effort, FCP worked with Tipping Point Community to encourage each of the 2018 San Francisco mayoral candidates to sign a pledge to create 1,000 homes in their first year in office. The top five candidates agreed and FCP shoe-horned the commitment into the discussion 60 days from election day in a non-partisan way. FCP helped message the pledge, guided the outreach to candidates, collaborated on the pledge language, and helped shepherd news coverage and opinion pieces.
“It’s important to find a communications advisor that provides both strategic expertise and then a wide range of tactical implementation and support,” says Joshua Steinberger, Tipping Point’s Chief Administrative Officer.
But a client’s needs can be diverse. FCP also worked with Tipping Point on their Emergency Relief Fund, an effort to help communities recover following the North Bay fires in 2017. Tipping Point Community raised $33 million through the “Band Together” concert that featured Metallica and the Dave Matthews Band. On the anniversary of the fires, FCP created and implemented a strategy to communicate how these funds supported the rebuilding and healing effort. FCP managed media availability with Tipping Point and their grantees in Santa Rosa, which resulted in extensive media coverage.
“Flexibility is the key for any social changemaker,” Cohen says. He points to recent client efforts to inform diverse communities about the importance of getting the COVID vaccine. “In some communities, the most trusted voice is a family member, while in others, it’s a faith leader or local small business. We recognize that the messages and messengers must match the needs of the community if an organization is to be successful.”
The media itself is changing. News organizations are stretched to the limit and every resident carries around a news-reporting device in their pocket. In this new world, philanthropists and organizations need to be prepared for the worst, while communicating their best at all times. This means a commitment to more outreach on social media, a staff and team that are trained communicators, and a deep network of allies who can help tell your story for you.
“The news cycle never ends,” Cohen says. “The news is everywhere – so is the noise. Our appetite to consume it may wax and wane, but the flow of news and information does not stop. We can unplug but the news never does.”
Kamika Dunlap, Chief Strategist, Communications at Women’s Foundation California, engaged FCP to help the foundation utilize new communication tools to mark its 40th anniversary.
“We were at a critical juncture for the foundation,” Dunlap says. “We needed to mark the past, but also begin to shape a very different future. With FCP’s help, we found new platforms, from social media to national podcasts, to reach a new generation of donors and public policy partners.”
As they look at their role, Cohen says FCP has evolved from creator to curator as they seek to inform target audiences. He also consistently reminds clients and communities of our shared humanity. Technology has connected us and allowed us to share our unique stories over social media. At the same time, a (virtual) handshake, a smile, and a laugh are necessary for healing in challenging times.
If it sounds like FCP is small but mighty, you are correct. But they were named among the top 100 PR firms in the U.S. by industry magazine PR News in 2021 and were one of the only firms that specialized in helping clients make social change.
Making social change through strategic communications matters now more than ever.
Principal and Founder: Dan Cohen
We are a public affairs, public relations, crisis communications and social media firm that works relentlessly in pursuit of our client’s vision of success. We offer:
- Media Relations
- Communications Planning
- Message Development
- Digital Communications
- Graphic Design & Branding
- Social Media & Advertising
Begin to Build a Relationship
We know you care about where your money goes and how it is used. Connect with this organization’s leadership in order to begin to build this important relationship. Your email will be sent directly to this organization’s Principal and Founder, Dan Cohen.
Decision-makers only listen when the volume gets loud. With this in mind, think about how you can mobilize the loudest audience possible, especially those in unlikely places, to make sure your vision is heard.