Leading the Charge
“We could never hire enough people to do what we have to do,” Melia says. “This is a national mission; every corner of this country has been affected. We’re going to have to use the tools that are available to reach people where they are.”
But there’s more to it
Integration doesn’t stop at direct mail and the Internet for WWP. Melia can’t stress enough the importance of leveraging media coverage — even to the point of suggesting that nonprofits partner early on with a public relations company to spread the word.
“Since our first days, we’ve had a public relations company that we work with. I can tell any nonprofit that’s just starting that it’s worthwhile to do that; that it’s money well spent,” he says. “Find somebody that’s new like you when you first start and is hungry, and you can do a really good job.
“We have an incredibly strong group out of Virginia Beach, [Va.] called The Meridian Group who were donors first, and they share our values and our sense of mission. And they’ve been our public relations partner for about four years now,” he adds.
That partnership, plus the fact that the war and the people fighting it have been very top-of-mind issues since WWP was founded, has kept the organization in the media and attracted some high-profile coverage, including frequent mention by commentators Bill O’Reilly, Lou Dobbs and Tony Snow. WWP knows how to keep its mission, and the veterans it serves, in the limelight — whether it’s lobbying for legislation such as the Wounded Warrior Bill (passed in 2005) that allows for immediate payments to service members that have suffered life-altering injuries, or organizing a bike ride or other event.
“We’ve always been able to stay in the news, and last year we had 6 billion media impressions,” Melia says. “And when you get those kind of impressions, it drives traffic to your site. The brand is out there; people recognize the brand. They’ve seen it in direct mail; they’ve seen it on the news; they’ve seen it on billboards; they’ve seen it on the Web. And from the beginning, we’ve wanted our brand to be the Susan Komen brand of veterans affairs.”
Related story: Tips From John Melia, Wounded Warrior Project