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10 tips: How to increase your NFP’s media coverage

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Many not-for-profit (NFP) organisations find it difficult to gain media attention, missing out on valuable opportunities to promote their organisation and its services to potential members or donors. Obtaining coverage in the media allows your organisation to be showcased to a large audience and positions it as a leader in its area of expertise.

This is a valuable marketing tool, yet unlike advertising does not cost a cent apart from your time, making it perfect for NFPs.

No matter the size your organisation you can receive effective and free media coverage by following the tips below.

1. Target local newspapers

Local newspapers love feel-good stories, providing a fantastic opportunity for advocacy groups, charities and community organisations to have their initiatives promoted to a large audience.

Local newspapers are often understaffed meaning they are grateful for stories that suit their publication and that they can publish without having to spend time researching and writing.

Research your local newspapers to see if they are a good fit for your organisation. Ask yourself, ‘why would they be interested in our organisation?’ and ‘what could we write about that their readers would be interested in?’

2. Write a story, not a sales pitch

Publications are most interested in stories that provide valuable information to their readers, relate to their readers and that are timely or have an uplifting message. A common trap is to write a story as a sales pitch that simply explains how great your organisation is and what they do. Instead, your story should focus on a main point, for example:

  • An impressive statistic or finding relating to your organisation. For example, if you are an association there may be new figures released relating to your industry that a spokesperson from your association can comment; or if you are a charity perhaps you have raised a record amount of funds this year
  • Long service recognition for an individual at your organisation
  • A new Board member has been appointed
  • An impressive achievement, such as your organisation celebrating 25 years
  • A public event you are hosting that the publication’s readers would be interested in
  • Relate your organisation’s services to a current news topic or day. For example, if you are an organisation related to mental health and it’s coming up to R U OK? Day write a story centred around the importance of the day and provide quotes from a spokesperson from your organisation. The same can be done with a popular issue in the media that relates to your organisation, such as the issue of refugees in Australia if you are a human rights organisation.

3. Tailor the story to each publication

Save a copy of your story that will interest to a broad range of publications, but also create different versions specifically targeted at certain publications. This could be as simple as changing the focus of the story, reordering paragraphs or accentuating certain aspects of the story more than others. This should only be done for a few select publications that you particularly want coverage in; you can just use the standard version of the story to other publications. The more tailored a story is to a publication the more likely it will be published.

4. Edit and proofread

Pay attention to the publication’s style and tone, and write your story accordingly. Publications are often stretched for time and resources, so if you can provide a story that is well written and requires little, or even no, editing you are more likely to receive coverage.

5. Provide interesting visuals

Be sure to include appealing images with your article. ‘A picture is worth 1,000 words’ and is often used by editors as the hook to draw readers’ attention to a page. If your image is exceptional you may receive coverage because of your image rather than your story!

6. Be aware of deadlines

No matter how wonderful your story is, if you miss the deadline of a publication it cannot to published. Make sure you are aware deadlines so that you don’t miss any opportunities.

7. Select, call, then email

Choose ten media outlets that you think are most likely to run your story. Call them and ask to speak to the editor. In one sentence you need to be able to tell them what your story is about and why it will interest their readers. Make sure you research the publication and know who their readers are and what types of stories they cover – this will help you frame your pitch.

If they say they will consider the story, follow up with an email. Your email should be addressed to the editor and explain briefly what the story is about and why it will interest their readers. Make sure you refer to the publication’s name so that it is clear that the story is specifically targeted to their readers and is not a generic press release. Attach your story and images to the email, and make sure the images suit each media’s requirements. Printed publications require high resolution images but blogs and websites require low-resolution images. If you have a lot of image options that you would like to send to a printed publication, it is a good idea to attach them as low resolution images and highlight the fact that high resolution versions are available. This will ensure the email isn’t too large, which is important because some companies block large emails.

8. Send a press release to a long list

If there are more than ten publications you wish to target, send the standard version of your story to a larger list of contacts in the form of a press release. This contact list can also include untraditional media like blogs. Some blogs have more readers than publications and provide a targeted audience for specific interest groups relating to your organisation.

If you would like a free template to help you write a press release contact Third Sector Services Manager Candice de Chalain on 03 9248 5100 or email cdechalain@gs-press.com.au

9. Create a media database

Now that you have researched a list of publications (and their editor, phone number, email address and deadlines) that are relevant to your organisation, store this information in a database or Excel spread sheet so that you have a central resource for future press releases.

10. Be an expert

Contact media outlets and offer to provide quotes for articles relating to topics in which your organisation specialises. Journalists are always looking for experts in different fields to comment on recent events or issues. By offering your expertise for free you and your organisation can be accredited in articles, positioning you both as experts.

By following these tips you will be surprised how easily you can boost the awareness of your organisation and in doing so grow your membership or donor base.

If you don’t have the time or resources to attribute to this task a marketing and public relations company specialising in the not-for-profits sector, such as Third Sector Services, will be able to assist you. Regardless of whether you decide to approach public relations in-house or via a professional, gaining media coverage is a powerful tool that should not be ignored.

Do you have tips about gaining media coverage? Share them by typing in the comment box below.

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