For many nonprofits, media relations isn’t a high priority.
This is especially true for smaller nonprofits that have limited resources for communications.
But even if you’re small, it’s important to have a strategy for telling your story through the media and for responding to questions and queries from reporters.
If your organization does not have a media relations strategy, the end of the year is a good time to create one. If you already have a strategy, it’s also a great time to reevaluate it and set goals for the next 12 months.
To help with the process, my Nonprofit Marketing Guide colleague Antionette Kerr and I have created an easy guide for making sure your strategy has the proper ingredients.
This guide is based on a simple acronym — G.R.E.A.T. — and it can be used by nonprofits and foundations of any size.
As you develop your strategy, make sure it is:
When you develop a strategy, it’s crucial that you have a goal in mind. For nonprofits that are looking to develop a strategy for their media relations activities, the first step should involve examining their organizational goals. If your organization’s goals center on ending hunger in your community, your media efforts should center on supporting that goal. If your priorities for the coming year include developing more partnerships with businesses, your media strategy should include steps that will aim to tell your story in outlets that reach business leaders.
Many communications professionals think media relations is about sending out press releases and pitching stories. But if you build your entire strategy around pitching stories, you’re only going half way. You also must be ready to respond when reporters are reaching out to you and are looking for information and sources when they’re pursuing breaking news stories.
As you build your strategy, make sure your organization is creating resources and building a structure that allows you to capitalize on breaking news, identify and act on trends in data and arising community needs, and handle potential crises. Are you equipped to quickly answer questions and respond to media requests? Do you have a page on your website for reporters to find information and connect with the appropriate people on your team? Being responsive is not something that you figure out along the way. It requires preparation and the ability to present your nonprofit as “the solution.”
Once you’ve identified your organization’s goals, it’s important to identify media outlets and reporters who cover stories that align with these goals. If you focus on health-care issues in your community, find the reporters who cover health or policy and begin to build relationships with them. “Relations” is a vital part of media relations. If you’re just sending the occasional news release or announcement, you’re not truly engaging with the people who are most likely to help your nonprofit tell its story.
Are the ideas you share with the media lively, current, relevant, and sexy? Do you have a good story to tell? Journalists often complain that nonprofit communications tend to be boring and announcements rarely change year after year. Make sure you’re providing compelling information that will get the attention of a journalist—and resonate with your intended audiences.
Many nonprofits use the “spray and pray” technique—pitching their story everywhere and praying that somebody picks it up. If your organization truly wants meaningful media coverage, avoid “spray and pray” and be surgical in your approach.
Want to learn more about creating and executing an effective media relations strategy for your nonprofit?
Antionette and I are putting the finishing touches on our forthcoming book, Modern Media Relations for Nonprofits. It promises to be a practical resource for any nonprofit that wants to tell its story more effectively in the media.
If you’d like to be notified when the book is available, complete the quick sign-up form on this page.