Nonprofits and the News: Getting the Media Coverage You Need

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The media is an excellent tool for improving public awareness of your organization’s goals and activities. Media coverage builds community understanding and support for the vital work your organization provides to improve the lives of ordinary people. Such coverage garners new interest in your organization’s mission and often attracts new donors. Following are some practical strategies for getting your organization media coverage:

1. Build and maintain meaningful relationships with reporters.

◾Learn the names of the reporters who cover the stories most significant to your nonprofit. The happenings of your organization may appeal to a health reporter or lifestyle reporter. The society page editor may have particular interest in covering your special event, especially if it involves prominent community leaders. Send the calendar page editor your event listings.

◾Personally deliver or email press releases to specific reporters, rather than just to the “editor.” Send press releases in the text of your emails, as attachments are often deleted due to concerns about computer viruses.

◾Always invite the media to fundraising and other events your organization hosts.

◾Ask a local television, radio or newspaper reporter to serve on your organization’s board. As a board member, he or she can provide many PR and media resources.

◾Send complimentary copies of your publications to reporters or the community relations director with your business card attached. Attach a personal note to direct him or her to some item in the publication that might be of particular interest.

◾Always thank the reporter or media contact for coverage. Send a handwritten thank you note or personal e-mail, but do not send gifts.

2. Make your organization a useful resource for the media.

◾Know your subject inside and out. Always be prepared to explain why your subject is important to the community, with specific examples and statistics, and what your organization is doing about it.

◾Submit articles for newspapers, magazines, trade publications and newsletters to establish those affiliated with your organization as the experts in your field. Become the expert that reporters will call on for background, commentary and story ideas related to your organization and its mission.

◾Take advantage of breaking news stories to promote your organization. Prepare key staff members to address specific issues related to your organization and to be available to the media.

◾Become reporters in your own office by providing reporters with good human interest stories. Encourage staff and/or volunteers at your organization to submit good story ideas that you might be able to “pitch” to the media.

◾Look for photo opportunities to promote your organization. Local newspapers, television stations, and magazines are always looking for interesting photographs. Contact the media with ideas, or submit your own photographs.

3. Know when and when not to contact the media.

◾Restrict press releases to real news. Occasional, meaningful, appropriate news releases are more effective than frequent, weak ones.

◾Only hold a news conference if you have something urgent and important to announce. Make your news conference interesting by having visuals to illustrate how people will be impacted by your announcement.

The key to savvy media relations is understanding how to tailor the wants and needs of your organization with those of the media. With preparation and persistence, your organization can receive the media attention it deserves.

The following article was written by Ruth Peebles, MPA, and President of The INS Group, a national consulting firm that provides organizational development and capacity building services to nonprofits, government agencies and faith-based institutions (http://www.theinsgroup.com).

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