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Top Tips for Earning News Coverage for Your Nonprofit

Picture this. A headline spanning across the top of your local paper with your nonprofit’s name on it. Beneath it, a stellar story detailing your organization’s latest initiatives and upcoming campaign. Oh, and this publicity didn’t cost you a dime.

While it may sound too good to be true, taking the time to improve your organization’s public relations skills can be rewarded with a huge payoff. Earned media is a fantastic way to spread awareness for your organization and gain free advertisement. But in order to successfully get news coverage for your nonprofit, you need to take hold of a few key tips.

Give Them Something To Talk About

Anytime you expect news media to mention your organization within an article, you must present them with news worth telling. Whether your organization is launching a new program or initiative, holding an upcoming event, or has recently achieved a key milestone, you must share intriguing information with any media contact whose time and attention you request. Make sure to pressure test your piece of news with individuals not affiliated with your organization. Oftentimes, what seems important to you and your colleagues will not cause everyday consumers to blink. You need to make sure you’re sharing a compelling story with news media in order to secure earned coverage.

Perfect Your Press Release

One of the most foundational tricks of the trade in public relations is to hone your writing skills, particularly when it comes to creating press releases. Press releases include key details of any news you hope the media will spread. Invest time in understanding the standard format that your local news organizations are accustomed to, and make sure to include all necessary details in a succinct, yet intriguing fashion. When you share out your press release, make sure to include an even tighter pitch that includes the most pertinent details of the story and will attract the attention of a busy reporter.

Pitch the Right Contacts

Once your story and your press release are finessed, spend some time up front to make sure you are reaching out to the right media contacts. Turnover is typically high in the media world, and when time is of the essence, it is critical that you spend your pitching efforts talking to the right person. You may wish to invest in media tracking software, such as Cision or Muck Rack. However, one of the scrappiest and oftentimes most accurate ways to identify the right media contacts is to thoroughly vet reporters’ social media profiles, such as LinkedIn and Twitter, which are bound to be updated in a more accurate and timely fashion than a directory could be. Twitter bios also often include contact information for local journalists. Taking time to do your homework can pay off in spades when you find yourself pitching the exact contact you’re searching for.

Keep Key Assets on Hand

Nothing is more painful for a journalist than being under deadline and waiting on a source they are writing about to respond to their inquiries for key details, photos, or other assets. Part of the process of securing earned news coverage for your organization involves being available and easy to work with. Make sure to keep an easily accessible and transferrable file of key assets on hand whenever you are pitching news about your organization to the media.

Provide a Perk

Sometimes, an interesting story is not quite enough to catch the attention of a busy, overworked reporter. Adding a perk on top of your newsworthy update may be just the thing to get your organization noticed. A perk in this form could include something like free entry to an event that you hope will be publicized, an offering for the reporter to give away to their readers or viewers on social media, or the ability to report exclusively on a hot piece of news. Depending on the situation, any of these perks could help you get your foot in the door with a news contact and secure that coverage your organization deserves.

Make Sure to Follow Through

Don’t expect that your first email or voicemail will land you the press placement you are looking for. Journalists are incredibly busy and often focused on their main task at hand. While advance notice is always preferable, don’t hesitate to follow up after a few days if you haven’t heard back with an initial “yes” or “no” to coverage opportunities. A polite and brief follow-up is often the distinction between receiving coverage or not for your organization.

How CLASS Can Help

If you are still feeling lost when it comes to developing an earned media relations strategy, crafting a press release, or building strategic media relationships, CLASS can help you and your organization come up with a winning plan. Sometimes an outside perspective is just what you need to shift your approach and allow your nonprofit to reach its full potential. If you’re interested in connecting with CLASS, reach out today for a consultatory meeting.

About The CLASS Consulting Group

The CLASS Consulting Group is a trusted advisor to the board of directors and senior leadership of the bay area nonprofit organizations. It is a boutique management consulting firm headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area that provides consulting services to senior management and board of directors of nonprofit organizations and offers community leadership opportunities to professionals.   

Since 2002 CLASS’ volunteers have been assisting nonprofit organizations in the SF Bay Area and supporting the communities in which, we all live and work.  Learn more about our mission and story. 


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