Demystifying the magic of the media

Nonprofit organizations want to share their message with donors, volunteers and the entire community.  So, nonprofit professionals are faced with trying to communicate their message to hundreds of thousands of people, with practically no marketing or advertising budget (trust me, I’ve been there, done that).

media nonprofitOne of the most affordable and effective ways to get your nonprofit organization’s message out in your community is to focus on enhancing your organization’s media relations.  Here are three tips to work with local media to share your nonprofit’s message with the community:

  1. Relationships:
    Take the time to understand what is going on in the media…. tune into the local radio station, read the paper, and watch the news.  Start to pay attention to who is covering stories about issues similar to your organization, and focus on introducing yourself to those reporters.  To get to know members of the media, connect with them through social media, send an introductory email or send a notecard.
    As you are building your relationship with the members of the media, remember to understand and respect their roles.  
    It is not your job to dictate to the media what stories to cover or tell them how to cover a story.  If you want that level of control, you can purchase an advertisement. As a nonprofit professional, it is your role to inform the media as you develop relationships with them. 
  2. Responsiveness:
    Members of the media are often working on strict deadlines.  They must submit their stories by a specific time, so if they have any questions when writing their stories it is important for them to have access to someone with the necessary information. Therefore, you must be accessible and responsive to media requests.  First, ensure the media has a cell phone number and email address to contact someone in your organization who has the authority to speak with the media. Secondly, if the media requests information and you can’t answer it immediately, let them know when you can get them the necessary information, and be sure to deliver as promised.  By being responsive, you will strengthen your relationship with the media.
  3. Creative Approach:
    When sending out media releases or contacting media to pitch a story – be creative. Be sure and highlight unique aspects of the story and let them know when it is the first, biggest, best or only time something will occur. For example, the headline “Habitat starts home construction” is not very creative and does not convey anything new or exciting for the media to warrant coverage.  However, the headline “Hundreds of Community Leaders Celebrate Groundbreaking of First Habitat for Humanity Townhouse” coveys the magnitude and importance of the groundbreaking, making it more attractive for the media to provide coverage.

Working with the media does not require magic.  But being successful with media relations does take a focused effort to build relationships with members with members of the media, be responsive and be creative.

What tips have helped your organization connect with the media?

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About Dr. Sarah Wolin Mackey

Putting theory into practice at nonprofit organizations.
This entry was posted in Habitat for Humanity, Nonprofit Management and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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