The bullpen manifesto

16 January 2013

With increasing vigor and creativity, the advertising and public relations industries are taking full advantage of the digital, social media age—as broadcast television still holds pride of place and print is beginning to reinvent itself. Good for brands as well as high-profile individuals and causes.

Cut off from these great resources are the great majority of non-profit players of all stripes—charitable, educational, political, cultural, etc. Their marketing and PR efforts suffer from limited funding and even the output of many of those entities with significant communications budgets lack the style, polish and sophistication of the commercial realm. Engaging the best and brightest is simply too expensive.

But a formula might be found to radically change things. A major agency working with some of the greatest talent could create a “bullpen system” that could make a certain percentage of the paid-for (by clients) time of the roster of writers, social media specialists, designers, producers, etc. available to execute projects on behalf of non-profit entities.

The clients would allot this percentage of the agency’s time and expertise, while the talent itself could make additional hours of their own time available. The agency, too, of course, could donate talent time, but its principal role would be the management and logistics of the “bullpen.” Clients and talent would choose the non-profit/cause/project they want to be associated with and lend their (brand) name to.

In addition, the agency could use its prestige to attract emerging talent working independently or being trained at some of New York’s prestigious universities, enrolling them in the “bullpen” on behalf of non-profits and giving them (and their academic homes, for example) exposure to a top agency and its industry partners—and vice versa.

The second tier of the system would cover the distribution of content produced to various platforms, which—again, through the agency’s network—could involve a “bullpen,” so to speak, outlets contributing ad and editorial space, airtime, etc. and lending their brand names to the non-profits and their causes in question. Assumed here, too, is the provision of any materials and supplies needed for content production, as well as a ‘barker’ function to get the word out to non-profits.

The “bullpen” formula could also apply a sliding-scale fee system. The non-profits would be charged according to their size and the nature and scope of their project. The objective for the “bullpen system” would to in due course become self-sustaining, even as at the onset the agency and some of its key partners, such as ad agencies and design firms, would be called upon for their generosity to start the process. Alternatively, a grant may be obtained for start-up financing. Eventually, non-profits could well be induced to commit all or a significant portion of their (in-house) communications & marketing & production budget to this new effort.

As a result, in sum—alongside significant community-building as well as cultural and social cross-fertilization—the media environment and the public square at large would get an injection of quality, substantial, meaningful, impactful content for the benefit of all parties involved. This provision of services, of course, is not limited to communications projects, but could include the latest thinking in organizational/business and product design.

The ‘system’—a procurement system of top-quality services for non-profits—would open up vital channels of communication between corporations and non-profits and (their) foundations; encourage a dialogue mediated by the agency/alliance of agencies that works toward ongoing intelligence-sharing in a safe-haven environment with benefits for all parties. Agencies could serve their commercial clients with more carefully targeted CSR opportunities (more appropriate and efficacious for both parties) with accompanying (goodwill) branding.

About Joop Koopman

Joop is a multilingual writer, marketing and publishing professional with significant experience developing editorial content and marketing materials across multimedia channels and formats for institutional, corporate and non-profit clients. Experience includes executive-level, consultative and creative responsibilities. Expertise spans full range of media, including print, television and digital.


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