Many nonprofit organizations rely heavily on free advertising resources to get their message out. While it can be difficult, there are options out there. If you know where to look.
There are many free and low-cost ways to gain publicity. Here are 6 tips for generating media attention and coverage for your organization.
1. Be proactive. Share 12 to 26 news releases with your hometown area newspaper where people involved in your program may live; if possible, identify clients who use your service and use their names and stories to lead your news to the paper. On a side note, make sure you have a media release for your clients.
Pro Tip – If you are unsure what to write about know the problems, trends, and issues being talked about in the media and what your organization is doing to address and deal with these subjects.
Practical Tip – Set up a google alert for press releases in your industry. Then repurpose and localize them for your services and organization. There is no need to reinvent the will.
2. Develop a list of key media contacts. Reach out to your local media outlets TV, Newspaper and Radio and get their emails. Make sure you set up a system for keeping media contact information current.
Pro Tip – Host a media breakfast to improve relations between your organization and the media. You can use the breakfast to inform the media on your organization’s role in the community. The breakfast should be no more than an hour and 15 minutes should be a Q & A session. Don’t worry if you only get a hand full in attendance. It’s about starting a relationship.
Practical Tip – Create a separate Outlook distribution list for each media outlets. This will make it easier to target specific groups i.e. TV for media advisory, PSA for radio etc…
3. Become an expert in your mission area. Offer yourself as a resource. Set up a quick meeting with media personnel to introduce yourself. Do not make a pitch at this time. You are there to discuss their coverage of the sector that ties to your work. Let them know that you have some good contacts for quotes for the next story. Offer to provide them with some of your thoughts about trends in the sector. You are there to build a relationship.
Pro Tip – Find out which beat a reporter covers. Approach them to do a weekly column or feature on your sector. Or write a letter to the editor about how your nonprofit is serving the community. This will create a dialogue that can lead to additional coverage.
Practical tip – They are your customers and not the other way around. Be aware of the needs of media personnel. Send press releases as early as possible. Reporters need time to follow up. Most importantly, return media calls right away. If you don’t have the answers right away, tell the reporter you need time. But make sure don’t leave them hanging. You should never turn down a media opportunity. Find a way to make it happen. Reschedule your appointments if you have to or find someone to take your place. It’s very important to be readily available or accessible; otherwise, it will be more difficult to pitch to that media outlet in the future.
4. Issue media advisories. These should be sent to the media two weeks before an event and a day before the event. It should include the Who, What, When, and Where. Since media often work on tight deadlines and are overwhelmed the day before is the most important one.
Pro Tip – Send advisories when there is a timely, nonroutine activity in your organization that has a strong visual element and would make for a good photo/interview opportunity. Call TV reporters with the promise of action video (then be sure to deliver!). Offer a hands-on opportunity for a reporter – e.g., rappelling down a building or a new indoor climbing wall in a youth center – can almost guarantee a fun, upbeat story that people will enjoy watching. One nonprofit created its own buzz by having their clients show up to the station on National Weatherman Day with gifts for a local popular weatherman. Of course, they got invited on-air.
Practical Tip – Advisories should be short and sweet (Two to three paragraphs and no longer than a page) and shouldn’t include quotes.
5. Create an Internet media room. This online media room should be attached to your organization’s website and allows reporters and producers to access information about your organization at any time.
Pro Tip – I fa news article is written by a reporter post it as a PDF in your media room with a donation button. Or link to the story on the newspaper’s website.
Practical Tip – Make sure you include information in your media room that reporters need to understand your organization and to do an article or segment. Include your media room icon on your home page.
6. Create Radio PSAs. These can be used to complement TV or print campaigns to reach an audience that may not read the paper. Radio PSAs are quick to produce and less expensive than TV.
Pro Tip – Provide the same PSA in different lengths (15, 30 and 60 seconds) and in both audio and script format. Write short, one paragraph PSA that the DJ can read on air.
Practical tip – Call the radio station manager to schedule a live interview during their morning show to speak on your event or a current issue.
Media communications is all about relationships. Although the relationship between media outlets and nonprofit organizations can be a complicated one, it doesn’t have to be an expensive one. Utilize the free resources in your area and continue to think outside of the box for fresh, low-cost ideas to maximize your organizations’ exposure.
I hope this helps. Your feedback is appreciated. I would love to see how your nonprofit generates free media exposure. Share in the comments below.
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