GOAL: Getting your name/website in the media
There are many ways to get your organization mentioned in the media and into the public eye. While some are more difficult than others, the following tips will separate you from the herd and earn your nonprofit some much deserved attention.
- You are the experts. Keep an eye on the news and when news breaks involving your area of expertise, have a local and national media contact list ready [phone numbers/e-mail addresses]. Be ready to instantly provide expert commentary/perspective. TIP: Be accessible.
- Being an expert is not enough. You need to be able to convey your information in a media friendly way as opposed to being overly academic, technical or full of unnecessary jargon.. If your comments and anecdotes are not concise, catchy or descriptive enough, they will not be used. TIP: Use mock interviews to "coach" your expert. Pretend you are explaining the issue to your mother or next-door neighbor rather than your colleague in the field.
- Look for the "people" angle. Does your founder, or the people on your staff, have any amazing stories or compelling personal reasons for being involved in the non-profit? Do the people you help have dramatic stories about how their life was changed by your non-profit? TIP: Keep a current database of stories of the people you help who are willing to talk to the media.
- Nice often is not enough. While many media outlets are looking for heart-warming stories, they are a dime a dozen. Iit helps to have an extra twist; look for a news hook, a current trend, a good back-story, an ironic turn of events, a celebrity connection or anything else that elevates your story pitch above the run-of-the-mill. TIP: Think visually: Can your story be illustrated?
- Clearly identify what is unique about your organization and what you are doing. For instance, is it the only group doing what it does in the country? State? Your community? Is it a model for other non-profits? Is it the biggest? TIP: If you can't claim a superlative, try to put what you are doing into perspective. Is what you are doing fit into any kind of trend?
- Timing is everything. Learn to strike a balance between persistence and contacting the media only when you have a good hook for your pitch [such as a news angle, trend, upcoming event]. TIP: One exception is when you are proactively compiling your media contact list [see Tip #1]. Use that as an excuse to introduce yourself and your organization to the media contacts.
- Think unconventional. Pitch to alumni magazines, alternative publications, talk radio and online publications. Don't hesitate to write a letter to the editor or post comments on reputable blogs related to your field. TIP: Know your media and what kind of stories they are interested in so you can tailor your pitch to their interests and needs, thereby not making pitches that will go nowhere.
- Milk your connections. If you have influential board members or celebrities who are interested or involved with what you are doing, ask them for help. Potentially they could publicize your non-profit, attend events [often a media draw] or reach out to their additional connections. TIP: A celebrity doesn't have to be a movie star or supermodel. Who is big in your community? If you rescue animals, is there a local NFL player, TV reporter or firefighter hero who is a pet lover too and willing to lend their name or time to your group?
- Create your own story. Keep a blog on your website, post that expert Q&A once you have it perfected [see Tip #2], post your own video on You Tube or even start a myspace page for your group. TIP: Send your newsletter to the media; it's a quick no-pressure update that just might spark a story.
- Be clear and specific about your results. How much money have you raised? How many people/animals/etc. have you helped? How much have you been able to improve a certain situation? TIP: Keep your statistics updated and handy.
- Similarly, be clear about why there is a need for what you do. TIP: Put yourself in the shoes of readers or TV viewers and ask the question: Why should I care?
- Urge the media to include a reference or link to your website in their story. While helpful, this still shouldn't be a deal-breaker, since the curious can easily Google and find you themselves. TIP: Make sure your website is ready. Can it handle the expected traffic? Is it inviting to the audience you are trying to reach? Is it user-friendly?
- Set realistic expectations. Don't expect to always get an in-depth story, or to get repeat features in the same media outlet. TIP: A small mention, a photo or an expert quote can be effective in getting the word out, and is much less labor intensive for your organization.