In this always-connected world, everyone has a story to tell. Companies and nonprofits alike are constantly vying for media attention, so how can you make sure your nonprofit’s fundraising campaign catches the eye of your local media outlets?
Nonprofit marketers should take a targeted approach to public relations, aiming to reach the most relevant group of readers possible at the appropriate times. Additionally, as a nonprofit PR professional, you should focus on industry best practices to determine the best strategy for your organization.
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Target The Right Media Outlets
Just as you should focus your marketing efforts on a target audience, your public relations efforts should focus on the correct media outlets. This requires some research to uncover which types of media you should focus on, as well as which reporters you should contact.
Consider The Angle And Timing
Hubspot suggests outlining the seven Ds of PR outreach: define what you’re pitching, develop your angle, decide on the timing, delve into outlets and contacts, discern between roles, discover who’s missing, and de-dupe.
Before deciding who you will contact, you must first decide what story you will be telling. In addition to outlining what types of stories you will be pitching to media outlets, you must also determine the angle of that story. Keep in mind that each angle may require its own media outreach list to ensure that every pitch is targeted and relevant to the journalist you’re pitching.
On top of considering the topic of your pitch, you must also think about the importance of timing to the story. If the story is short-lived, an event or time-sensitive crowdfunding campaign for example, reach out to short lead outlets like daily newspapers, television and radio, or online publications. Evergreen or long lead stories on the other hand, may be more relevant to print magazines.
Build A Media List
After you have identified the types of stories you will pitch and the angle you will take, it’s time to make your media list. This list should contain specific information about each outlet, along with the contact information for each journalist organized according to that reporter’s value in terms of reaching your target audience.
List building should begin with a general search that includes outlining local news outlets, regional news outlets, and industry-specific publications. Then, narrow down your results by focusing on specific contacts within that outlet.
When digging into specific people within each outlet, note the contact’s title. While it may be tempting to reach out to editors or editors-in-chief, don’t. Although these people are often department heads, they’re more concerned with selecting content and not necessarily creating it. Instead, look for staff writers or editorial assistants. They’re more likely to take your story and run with it.
Don’t stop your search when you have a name or two. It’s also important to research the writer you’re planning on contacting to determine what types of stories they write and the angle they take when constructing their pieces.
You can’t expect to get a positive story out of a writer who always points out the negative, so make sure the reporters to whom you pitch your stories will be likely to shed a positive light on your nonprofit.
When you’re satisfied with the list you’ve created, it’s time to review it to make sure you haven’t listed anyone more than once. Sort your list by name and by email address to be certain. Also, be on the lookout for generic email addresses, like editor@, newsroom@, etc., and replace those if you can.
Tell The Right Story
While your organization may be excited to tell the public about the latest donation you received or the next campaign you plan to launch, readers and viewers are more interested in hearing about people. When reaching out to media outlets, focus on a human-interest aspect of your story. Use your press release to tell reporters about someone who will benefit from that big donation or how your next campaign will affect the lives of a certain group of people.
When constructing a story, many journalists focus on answering the five Ws – who, what, when, where, and why. While the answer to all of these questions is important in storytelling, focusing your efforts on the who and why of your story may be more beneficial in media outreach.
Timing is also important when determining the type of story to tell. Many magazines and online publications publish their editorial calendars online, giving you an idea of the focus of upcoming issues.
And, while daily newspapers and television/radio shows may not have a focused calendar available, most look for seasonal and holiday-related content during certain times of year. Angling your story to fit these occasions will increase the likelihood that your story will be picked up.
Don’t Forget The Visuals
Visual elements aren’t just essential for content marketing, they’re also extremely important in media outreach as well. According to a survey by PR Newswire, “80 percent of journalists feel including photos, infographics, or video is very important to creating effective and engaging content.”
When seeking out visual elements to include with your press release, remember that many reporters are looking for a variety of visual elements. PR Newswire also reports that 75 percent of stories produced by journalists today include multimedia content. When issuing a press release to media outlets, be sure to include high-quality, high-resolution photos, graphics, and/or video, in addition to specifying photo opportunities the reporter or staff photographer could take advantage of on their own.
Make accessing your visual elements as simple as possible, too. Instead of attaching large files directly to the email message, send a link through Dropbox. That way, you can avoid file size restrictions and your recipient can view the multimedia options and decide what to download on their own.
Establish Yourself As An Expert
Your organization should have at least one (but possibly many) spokesperson who consistently engages with the media, donors, and the community at large. This spokesperson should be well-versed in your nonprofit’s core messaging, in addition to relevant topics within your organization’s niche.
A knowledgeable spokesperson could become a reporter’s go-to source on a particular topic, especially if that journalist sees that person as an expert in the field. According to the Nonprofit Marketing Guide, “if you’ve been a good source for [a reporter] in the past, they’re likely to put you at the top of their list of calls the next time they’re covering a topic.”
How can your spokesperson become an expert in the eyes of the media? Consider these tactics:
- Contributed by or by-lined articles: Consider reaching out to industry magazines and websites, in addition to local news sources, and inquiring about contributing articles that center around your organization’s objectives.
- Speaking opportunities: Seek out conferences, trade shows, webinars, and panel discussions that revolve around your organization’s niche, then find out how your spokesperson can become a speaker. Keep in mind that many such events are planned months ahead of time, so scheduling speaking engagements should be done well in advance.
- Create an online presence: Use your organization’s website and social media to tout your spokesperson’s expertise.
Use Proper Formatting
The majority of news outlets follow Associated Press grammar guidelines, and your press releases should be no different. Make sure your text reads like a news story and not a marketing piece, which means it should be written objectively and aim to inform the reader instead of “selling” to them.
Headlines should be a snapshot of the story and should include your organization’s name. Keep the headline short (no more than one line) and to-the-point.
Open the story with lead that is informative and gets quickly to the point of the press release. Include quotes from a person of note within the organization and/or a beneficiary of the nonprofit, and back up any information provided with facts and evidence.
Be sure to use proper grammar and punctuation, and write in the third person without the use of pronouns such as I, we, us, our, your, etc.
Always end your press release with a standard paragraph about your organization, and include contact information for your spokesperson in the event a journalist would like more information.
Plan, Assess, And Adjust
Since PR is an integral element to your marketing mix, it’s imperative that your organization has plan in place to execute your strategy. Your PR plan should define the goals of your efforts, the steps you’ll take to reach those goals, and how you’ll measure success (and failure).
Your PR plan will begin with a brief analysis of your organization’s current public relations efforts, a description of your target audience, and an outline of the goals you hope to accomplish. You should also include target messaging and the tactics you will use in media outreach. A budget and timeline should also be included in your plan.
An essential of element of any PR strategy is assessing that strategy with an analytical eye. After your plan is in motion, take account of all the media coverage your organization received (good and bad), and review it to determine which angles and pitches worked best, and which fell flat.
- Consider these questions when conducting your analysis:
- Which journalists reported positive stories about your organization?
- Which journalists took on a negative angle?
- How many pitches were picked up by news outlets?
- How many pitches were not covered?
- What was different between the pitches covered and those that weren’t?
- What can you do next year to improve upon these results?
Use the answers to these questions to plan your next public relations initiative. In addition to tweaking your pitch and angle if needed, also take the time to reexamine your media outlet list to determine if the outlets and journalists are relevant to your new plan.
Don’t forget that a media mention is only the first step in your marketing efforts. Once your story is picked up by media outlets, run with it! Make sure your current and potential donors know news outlets are sharing your story by including it in newsletters, on your website, and on social media. By promoting all the good news your organization has to offer, you’re bringing more credibility to your organization and making your next pitch just a little bit easier.
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