February 2020 – Lauriane Lebrun, Marketing & Communications Coordinator

For many small nonprofits, news/media coverage is vital to awareness building.  Your advertising budget may be small, but as this Forbes article by Robert Wynne explains, PR experts “don’t buy advertisements, we don’t order journalists to write stories for our clients, we don’t produce cute radio jingles, and we don’t hand out free samples at the mall.  Yes, we try to promote our clients, our products or ourselves.  But unlike advertisers, we persuade our external or internal audiences via unpaid or earned methods.”

Of course, unpaid media attention can be hard to come by.  Here are some tips to help get your nonprofit’s story the publicity it deserves:

  1. Study up on how to write a press release.  According to Daniel Selnick of GuideStar, “A news release should be written in a journalistic, rather than a marketing, style.  It should be objectively written as though a reporter were writing the story for you.  Most important, your release needs to ‘inform’ people, NOT just ‘sell’ them something.”  Check out Huffpost’s “8 Tips for Writing a Great Press Release” and Vital’s “How and When to Write a Press Release” for more expert advice and best practices. 
  2. Take care when choosing targets.  If you’re looking for a new job, you generally don’t just apply for any and every job that comes your way.  For most of us, job searching first involves researching to find a position that interests you—and that you’re qualified to fulfill—in a company you like.  It’s important to be just as strategic when looking for media targets.  As Elizabeth Chung of Classy explains, “make sure you’re contacting the right person for your story.  Does your topic fall into that person’s editorial guidelines?  Find out what else they’ve written on your subject.  This will help you understand the reporter’s viewpoint on the topic, allowing you to better personalize your pitch for their tastes.”
  3. Get visual.  There is no reason to limit your story pitch or press release to text alone.  Adding videos and photos can give your PR efforts a competitive, attention-grabbing edge.  You might also consider adding infographics, which you can create on your own using a tool like Venngage
  4. Consider alternative PR tactics.  The concept of “public relations” typically brings to mind press releases and story pitching, but there are other ways to get your organization noticed by the media: 
    • Network for Good recommends sharing case studies: “Talk to your [members] and ask them if you can report on their successes.  While this’ll require your [members] to share their ‘war stories,’ it offers them – and you – a chance to shine.” 
    • Network for Good also suggests keeping an eye out for opportunities to speak at relevant conferences, trade shows, and webinars.  Whether you’re the keynote or a panelist, speaking engagements offer another great platform for bringing media attention to your nonprofit.

As Richard Branson once said, “A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front-page ad.”  Anyone can buy an advertisement, but it takes something special to produce an authentic, compelling story.  As a nonprofit, you already have a great story.  All that’s left to do is get out there and share it with the world.

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