Public relations and advocacy both contribute to increasing public awareness. According to the Fundamentals of Arts Management, public relations consists of activities that
build goodwill within a community or audience. Public relations concerns how the public perceives and regards your work. Aims of public relations efforts might be to enhance visibility or credibility for your organization, to build trust with a particular market segment (often a new one), to develop a particular image for your organization (defining your niche or character), to inform your audiences of recent accomplishments, or to counteract general misperceptions, such as the effects of a particular controversy.107
The word advocacy intimidates some nonprofit leaders who believe that getting involved in advocacy will jeopardize their tax-exempt status or who think that they don’t know how to do it. Both of these assumptions are false. Their concern results, in part, from a conflation of the terms advocacy and lobbying. Thomas L. Birch, legislative counsel to the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, explains the difference:
The words advocacy and lobbying are often confused. Advocacy encompasses a wide range of activities. Lobbying is a small part of advocacy; advocacy does not always involve lobbying.
Lobbying is about making positive change to laws that affect us and the causes we serve. Lobbying is trying to influence the voting of legislators; it is urging the passage (or defeat) of a bill in the legislature. Lobbying is citizen action at any level of government. It is part of the democratic process.
Advocacy is something all of us should do if we believe in the value of public support for the arts; it is democracy in action. Advocacy is building familiarity and trust between you and your elected officials. It is providing reliable information to legislators. Advocacy is offering a personal perspective where public policy decisions are made. Arts advocacy means speaking up for what we believe is important and talking about the arts with the people whose support and influence can help our cause.108
Advocacy, in other words, is increasing awareness and appreciation among elected officials, public and private funders, and policy makers of how arts programs enhance older adults’ quality of life and benefit the community. It is telling the story.
There are red states and blue states, but aging is purple. Dorcas Hardy, Chairman, Policy Committee, 2005 White House Conference on Aging