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Surround Sound and Multimedia Approach to Mar-Comm Strategy

Below is a case study of one nonprofit's unqiue approach to marketing and communications (mar-comm), written by Jennifer Smith, Sr. Director Marketing, Communications & Special Programs, Ronald McDonald House Charities® (RMHC®). If your nonprofit is innovating a particular facet of your work and would like to use the GuideStar Blog as a mechanism to share tips and resources about this innovation with other nonprofit professionals, please email Lindsay Nichols at

RMHC_Global_Surround_Sound_Approach_Graph RMHC's surround sound approach

As for-profits do, at Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC), we are responsible for raising awareness, generating brand affinity, facilitating supporter engagement and securing more revenue so we can power our work. However, given a limited budget, we have to be savvy with our dollars. We are constantly making sure to pair the right message with the right medium and target.

We do this through a “surround sound” and “multimedia” approach to our Mar-Comm strategy.

Bianca_Stamco_RMHC_of_Romania Ronald McDonald Houses, the cornerstone program of RMHC, provide a "home away from home" for families around the world so they can stay by their ill child during medical treatments. Because Bianca Stamco was able to have her family close, she was able to cope better and heal faster.

Our strategy is designed to unite the RMHC system of local Chapters under one same rallying cry and voice. Collectively, we can then create deeper understanding about the impact of our family-centered programs so that more people are compelled to invest in our mission. We engage our targeted audiences based on their motivations and desire to give. And we tap into traditional media to release our “new” news and build relationships with influential voices such as reporters, bloggers and experts from our industry. We use direct mail, e-newsletters, social media, PSAs, guerrilla marketing, digital and word of mouth to literally “surround” our donors, build relationships, and deliver our core messages and calls to action.

RMHC_Convention_Strengh_In_Numbers The RMHC logo: it takes a lot of staff, volunteers, donors and the medical community to bring to life the family-centered programs that allow RMHC to help families find strength in numbers.

Our “Season of Giving” campaign featured during Nov. and Dec. is a good example. Leveraging the theme “Give the Gift of Togetherness” we demonstrated our differentiating factor: our ability to provide compassionate care to the whole family, so they in turn can be empowered to take care of their children’s health and wellbeing. We drew on the emotive story of the Maley Family, which was told through an animated video on, donor communications, in press releases and social media.

Danielle Constantine  Noelle Lovelace_RMHC-CNI The Lovelace family was able to stay together close by little Noelle who was hospitalized after she was prematurely born. Together, they found hope and healing at the Ronald McDonald House in Oak Lawn, IL.

As a system, we rallied around a primary goal: raise $1 million for RMHC. We also looked at our ability to raise understanding of our brand during the most competitive time for charitable giving, which became even more challenging during Hurricane Sandy and Sandy Hook Elementary tragedies. In all, the Gift of Togetherness” campaign was extremely effective in its ability to drive successful donation conversions, build capacity for the RMHC system, and make the Charity top of mind despite competition in the marketplace.

During special campaigns throughout the year, but also on a daily basis, through our “surround sound” and “multimedia” approach to our Marc-Comm strategy, both online and offline, we are opening the doors for people to learn more about RMHC, get involved and contribute to our cause.

In summary, here are some tips or reminders that any PR, marketer or communicator in the nonprofit sector should always have in mind:

  • Know your brand. Do an audit. Understand who your brand is, what it does, what it has to offer and how it compares to others in the industry. Ask yourself what makes it unique.
  • Know and engage your audience. Identify, understand and build meaningful relationships and dialogue with your audience(s) based on their motivations and desire to give.
  • Look around, leverage your resources. Tap into those relationships, advocates and key stakeholders for their support and expertise. Don’t be afraid: “ask” what you need from them.
  • Tell your story, a visually, compelling one: Visual storytelling is the new language in today’s digital world. It is the art of blending the right amount of information/education with a dose of entertainment or emotion.
  • Pair the right message with the right medium and target: Sharable photos and images accompanied by short captions are powerful for social media. However, lengthy, descriptive stories for direct mail are also effective; it all depends on the audience and medium you choose. Be savvy.

Jennifer Smith Jennifer Smith

Currently a senior director for Ronald McDonald House Charities, Jennifer Smith began a career with McDonald’s Corporation in 1994 as an administrative assistant in Raleigh, North Carolina. Jennifer’s experience includes being a marketing supervisor, marketing manager, a senior public relations manager and director of communications and public relations in various areas, including North Carolina, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, and the West Division. Jennifer also worked in McDonald’s US Communications leading the strategic development of the national public relations framework. In addition to her work within the field of marketing and communications, Jennifer led several cross-functional business initiatives as well. Her experiences in different geographies across the McDonald’s System and in different capacities have allowed her to develop a strategic approach to the communications, public relations and marketing disciplines. Her strengths include strategic business planning, integration of communications and marketing, as well as management communications.

Topics: Nonprofit Leadership and Practice