4 Steps to Generating More Media for Your Nonprofit Story
Americans are exposed to 4,000 to 10,000 different brands every day. Although nonprofits spend tons of time worrying about how to be one of the brands that stands out, most spend little time actually focusing on increasing their media coverage.
In fact, most nonprofits can’t understand why the media doesn’t seem more interested in talking about the great initiatives they’re doing for the community or why their cause is so important.
Getting media coverage is critical. Being in the news with positive stories provides visibility, creates awareness, enhances credibility, and leverages more financial support for your nonprofit and those who benefit from all your efforts.
What can you do to generate more attention and get the media interested in your nonprofit? Here are four steps you can take now to get the media’s attention that you need — and deserve.
1. Build Relationships
Simply put, journalists don’t understand what you do. One of the first things to focus on is building relationships with journalists. Find out who covers the local beat for your geographic area, your field of interest (arts, health, environment and so forth), and your community’s charitable work or philanthropy. Focus first on all local print and digital media outlets, local television and radio stations, and don’t forget regional media that cover your area as well.
Reach out to those journalists personally and introduce yourself and your nonprofit. Lose the jargon and the plea for coverage, and develop a relationship that makes the journalist want to cover your nonprofit or an upcoming event. Provide background information and let them know you’re interested in what they need from you.
The best time to begin is not when you need coverage. Reporters call who they know. Make sure they know you — and that you’re on their list. Making yourself available and becoming a good source of information will go a long way to getting your nonprofit featured in upcoming stories.
2. Enhance Press Releases
Cull your media list carefully and target releases to specific journalists who will be most interested in that particular story. Blanketing the media list with releases is not the way to get coverage.
Nearly 80% of journalists say they rely on releases to generate stories and information (opens as a pdf). Find an interesting angle that makes your story relevant and timely. Lead with the most important details first so that reporters and editors are compelled by what’s most critical. If they run your release, they can edit from the bottom of the release so as not to lose essential details.
Include interesting and current facts and statistics in your releases, and quote key or noteworthy people from your nonprofit. These additions not only lend credibility and importance to your release, but also make it ready for publication. Media outlets are not only struggling for content, but they are short on journalists. Solid, well-written, timely and relevant press releases lead to more media coverage.
3. Pitch Compelling Stories
Find an interesting and unique angle to your work and write a short pitch email or make a short, three-minute phone call to gain a journalist’s interest in writing about or featuring your nonprofit.
Journalists are searching for good stories — and you have good stories to tell. Make your PR pitches short — three sentences or three minutes — stating the context of the story, its relevance, and why you are writing or calling. Make sure you build the relationship before you begin pitching stories. Don’t oversell or overhype your importance, either, but present a clear, compelling message that will make a good story.
Journalists say personalized emails are still the best way to pitch stories. Studies show that Thursdays have the best open rate and mornings are the most effective in not getting lost in inboxes.
4. Integrate With Social Media
Media means more than just reporters. Broadly define what media is now. It also includes social media as a major player in a nonprofit’s visibility and awareness efforts. Integrate all of your PR efforts with your social media platforms and have a consistent and regular presence.
Engage your followers to interact with you by posting responses, questions and feedback. Engagement increases the number of people who are seeing your posts and hearing your messages.
Add social sharing buttons to your press releases so that the media and your followers can share information easily (journalists find many stories through releases posted on social media). Media outlets also have digital versions and social media platforms that need content. And don’t forget social media influencers in your area. They can also be helpful in getting the word out about your nonprofit.
All your PR tactics have the opportunity to appeal to the media, and they don’t all have to be stories or events. Publicity stunts can be unique and fun, and garner extensive coverage. For example, the ALS ice bucket challenge led to tons of publicity and raised more than $100 million by building awareness for the disease through the public’s participation in and documentation of the challenge on social media.
Getting more press coverage doesn’t happen quickly or without planning and focus. But it can happen without money or a staff communications director. Being in the news leads to visibility, credibility, impact and money. Following these four steps will increase the likelihood of your success and help your nonprofit gain the awareness, support and importance it deserves.
The preceding blog was provided by an individual unaffiliated with NonProfit PRO. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of NonProfit PRO.
Stephanie Minor is executive consultant of NPO Centric in Palm Desert, California, where she advances the work of nonprofits through capacity-building and technical assistance. Stephanie is an award-winning veteran fundraising professional, nonprofit executive and strategic development coach whose proven fundraising strategies have won big grants and gifts for impactful nonprofit causes. Through her many publications and online courses, she teaches nonprofit leaders, fundraisers and founders the best practices from her career in leading and raising millions of dollars for nonprofits.