Nonprofit Public Relations PR Leaders - Q&A

Craig Van Korlaar (TopNonprofits): Today I’ve got Dezmon Gilmore, the Head of PR and Talent Relations at, #5 on the Top 100 Nonprofits List.

Dezmon has over seven years of PR experience, and has worked across multiple sectors of public relations including entertainment, lifestyle, and non-profits. His role at DoSomething is to cultivate influencer relationships and oversee integrated talent partnerships for DoSomething’s social cause-related initiatives.

Preview of the topics discussed.

1. Describe PR to someone less familiar
2. PR Campaign Examples
3. Top 3 PR tips for newbies
4. Pros & cons to working with celebrities and brands
5. How does your team track the impact of PR?
6. What do you love the most about working at

Q1: Dezmon, There are two pieces to your title as I understand it. Let’s go into the PR part first. Just for clarity’s sake, can you define public relations for those that might need a refresher?

Dezmon (DoSomething): Absolutely. For me, I think the job of the person who works in PR is to build relationships for the organization and build exposure for the different things that we are working on internally…all at no cost to the company. As nonprofit professionals, we are often able to get lots of internal buy in. We get a lot of excitement about the different things we’re working on and the different changes that we’re making. But a lot of times, the external world doesn’t see those things.

It’s my job to build excitement in the external world as far as news publications, print magazines, digital online, TV stations. Getting them excited about some of the causes that we’re working on as well as highlight some of the work that we’re doing in different spaces. That’s means a lot of setting up TV interviews, setting up radio interviews, setting up interviews such as this. I also do some public appearances at difference conferences, setting up different panels and continuously building exposure for the brand as well as the different initiatives that we are focusing on, again without having to spend money.

Q2: What are some specific examples of how you’ve leveraged PR to manage a particular campaign?

Dezmon (DoSomething): One of the best ones I can highlight is our Sincerely, Us campaign, which we did earlier in the year focused on combatting Islamophobia here in the US, and we tied it back to Ramadan, which is the holy month for the Muslim community. We had our 5.6 million members from around the country engage around this topic and then those who signed up to participate and the campaign were creating these handmade “Happy Ramadan” cards that we then took and redistributed out to over 2300 mosques around the country.

On the PR side, we did a lot of things on social. We had a lot of people engaging with us on social and then we were able to take that different engagement and that impact and turn that story into something that people were interested in talking about. We had coverage from NBC, from Business Insider, from Mashable, from Refinery29, from Teen Vogue and some of those places we were partners with. So we did like different things on social media where we had celebrities come in and talk about why this campaign was important to them. Actually, on Refinery29, they created some of their own cards in their office, and then they created digital versions of cards that their followers could use and send those back to us, and we included these as part of our distribution back to the 2300 mosques around the country.

We highlighted the fact that we were doing this outreach in local areas and partnered with other organizations like BuildOn where we had members from BuildOn hand-deliver some of the cards. We had local press come out and attend that event, as well as the members who attended through an iftar, which is the nightly breaking of the fast and observe the prayer service and ask the questions of the imam after the fact. Like, why did you do this? Why is this important to your culture? As a way to kind of like break the mold and encourage young people to meet people who aren’t the people who they see every day and myth-bust some of the things that people aren’t all familiar with.

Q3: If you were talking to someone that’s new in PR and they ask you for three tips or nuggets for running an effective PR campaign, what would you say?

Dezmon (DoSomething): I would say make sure your campaign is timely. It ties back to things that are happening around you. Second, make sure that it’s super impactful, like showing that you are going to do something to change not only just one person’s life but multiple people’s lives. This is usually very, very intriguing for people in the media. Three, if you don’t have a ton of people, make sure you have that one solid story that’s like super, super impactful that you’re going to make someone cry, someone angry, someone very, very happy or will call someone else to make a change. These are the types of stories that are super, super successful when making PR campaigns.

Q4: What are the pros and cons of incorporating celebrities and brands into your work.

Dezmon (DoSomething): We’ve seen over the last maybe ten years the huge rise of the importance of celebrities or influencers in marketing as well as in PR. What we’ve seen is that young people are more bought in when there is a personality and a face attached to something than if they just see the brand on its own.

My job is to build relationships with different celebrities and influencers who are organically and authentically passionate about doing social change causes and aligning them with different campaigns that we may be running. If someone is passionate about vehicle safety because something happened to them in their life and they want to educate young people about it, it’s my job to source that person out. Then I figure out how to align DoSomething with them and then get them to leverage their platform as a way to expose more people to the cause, as an additional way to drive engagement.

I think the main thing is just being authentic and making sure the person who’s speaking to the cause is authentically passionate about it. One of the things that we do is anti-smoking campaigns, so we want to make sure that we don’t ask someone to stand up and be a spokesperson for a campaign or about anti-smoking and then we see that this person is posting pictures with cigarettes online every day.

You want to make sure that they capture the voice of the campaign that you’re speaking to and make sure that the person who you align your brand with is also going to be speaking to it, not only for that one campaign but consistently over time.

Q5: How does your team track your impact on your PR campaigns?

Dezmon (DoSomething): Yeah. We do a few different things. But one of the main things is just what we call “impressions,” just seeing how many people are engaging with the different campaigns and then monitoring how many sign-ups that we get from the actual PR campaigns that we do. On the backend of our site, we do a lot of things called report-backs and sign-ups. Sign-ups are people who are new to the organization who have signed up to be members and then report-backs are people who actually go through the full cycle of the campaign and actually show us proof that they did the impact.

What’s unique about DoSomething is we are one of the few organizations that actually measure the impact. If we say like 50,000 people did this campaign, we literally have 50,000 pictures to show proof that these 50,000 people did this.

Q6: Lastly, let’s talk a little bit about DoSomething and its amazing culture. What do you love the most about coming to work every day?

Dezmon (DoSomething): I definitely have to say the people. Sam who’s our Head of Fun and over all of the culture here is very passionate about finding people that ensure that from the day you walk in you will get along with pretty much the majority of your office.

One of the things that we do here that’s unique is that we do what’s called “All Staff” where everyone in the organization has an opportunity to interview every single new candidate that walks in the door. So that way, we have this motto that literally if I was to get stuck in a bunker with this person, would I actually get along with them. Would I enjoy being there with them for months or days? Like, if I had to fight for survival, would this person be someone who would be on my side? Which is something I had never experienced before and at first, I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is super scary that we have to go through so many interviews.”

But what I noticed is that because of that on my first day, I already had friends in the office. So it wasn’t like, oh, I’m going to be in my quiet little corner for like the first three weeks because I don’t know anyone. I literally walked in, and people were automatically talking with me and engaging with me because this interaction helped ensure we genuinely get along with each other.