Mary Alice Holley

Mary Alice Holley

In just a few weeks, we will kick off our latest Nonprofit Marketing Accelerator – Becoming a Thought Leader and Media DarlingMary Alice Holley of BC/DC Ideas shares some tips on becoming a thought leader and what being media savvy can do for your nonprofit. ~Kristina

Guest Post by Mary Alice Holley of BC/DC Ideas

If your nonprofit wants to gain notoriety, broaden awareness of your work, establish the credibility of your organization, and attract more supporters and donors, the secret sauce is right inside your organization. Your field experts and executive leaders are primed to be champions for your organization and thought leaders in the media.

I work at BC/DC Ideas, which is a full-service communications agency working exclusively with nonprofit organizations across the country. The client roster spans every mission-focus from education to teen pregnancy prevention, human rights and policy, and deep roots in conservation issues. We help many of our clients cultivate thought leadership through communications and media outreach efforts.

The power of positive PR should never be underestimated – it’s FREE – it just takes time. Here’s how we do it with clients, and how you can do it yourself. These are my go-to methods to successfully build a PR program and establish thought leadership for your mission-focus.


Science researchers, policy wonks, arts and culture critics – every nonprofit can find an influential reporter who’s hungry for content to showcase your mission and impact.

  • Do your homework: pitch reporters who already cover your focus area. Blanket pitches will fall flat, but taking time to identify the right reporter will jump-start a great relationship that could serve you ten-fold.
  • Pitch a great story: is it new, is it relevant, is it interesting? Find a great story that makes a splash to highlight the expertise of your staff and showcase your great work.
  • Save reporters time: respect deadlines, provide multi-media assets (high res photos and video) and serve up credible data. If you’re easy to work with, they’ll keep coming back.


Coalition members, legislative representatives, community partners, and even high-profile volunteers can be a great resource to gain attention for your organization. Leverage your organization’s partnerships to increase PR bandwidth. Using existing relationships can lead to your organization cultivating new reporter contacts, gaining a high-profile story placement, or reaching a new audience segment altogether.


Establishing thought leadership can be on your own terms too. Submitting thought pieces, editorials and letters to the editor of a local newspaper can be a great way to feature your organization’s expertise and a fresh perspective on an issue. Blogs and other online platforms can also be an effective way to reach niche audiences and gain credibility for your staff.

Thought Leadership in Action: Audubon North Carolina

Staffed with the state’s leading experts on bird conservation, and an investment in the time to cultivate meaningful relationships, Audubon North Carolina was able to develop a thriving media outreach program.

In three years, the organization has gained national recognition for their work in bird science and research securing publication in hundreds of daily newspapers, feature magazines, and statewide TV and radio outlets. The top science reporters in the Southeast now consider Audubon a go-to source when crafting stories on bird-related issues. And donors have taken notice citing prominent feature stories as their motivation to give.

With time, expertise and a little media savvy, you can replicate this success for your organization and develop your staff as thought leaders on whichever issue you tackle next.

Mary Alice Holley is the Content and Media Relations Director for BC/DC Ideas, a full-service communications agency based in Raleigh, N.C. that works exclusively with nonprofits. Mary Alice’s background in corporate PR and campaign management has shaped her approach to nonprofit communications. At BC/DC Ideas, she leads award-winning media strategies that get her clients noticed.  

Want to learn more about media relations and thought leadership? Consider Nonprofit Marketing Guide’s Nonprofit Marketing Accelerator – Becoming a Thought Leader and Media Darling.

Published On: August 3, 2016|Categories: PR and Media Relations, Thought Leadership|