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How to use the media to promote your not-for-profit

3 min read

1.Know your objectives

Why do you want to pursue media coverage? Some common reasons are to:

* Increase ‘brand’ awareness of your organisation among potential funders and/or members.
* Promote a fundraising campaign.
* Promote as ’employer of choice’.
* Promote critical research findings.
* Advocate for your client group.
* Position as ‘thought leader’. demonstrate outcomes to funders (particularly important for Government funding).

2. What media does your audience consume

If your objective is to encourage donations and your donors are mainly women aged 35-50 then you need to find the right media to reach this audience – perhaps pursue an article in a woman’s magazine (note lead times for monthly magazines can be five months).

The same logic regarding audience should be applied to other objectives.

3.Compile a list of all relevant media

There are around 40,000 media outlets in Australia, from television news programs to fishing magazines, to radio programs on gardening and niche, special interest newsletters. This is great news for the third sector as media outlets are always on the hunt for new and interesting content and our sector has great stories to tell.

Read, watch and listen to as much media as you can in an effort to identify relevant media for you.

When I’m promoting national fundraising campaigns I’ve had great success with segments as diverse as: Mike Larkin’s weather report, Kerri-Anne Kennerly’s ‘Wheel’, Ready Steady Cook, Good Morning Australia, ABC
Conversation Hour, BTN (Youth News), Totally Wild, CEOs and celebrity ambassadors profiled in major newspapers, and stories in New Idea, Cosmo and Women’s Weekly.

Media Monitors, Margaret Gee’s Media Guide, or AAP can help you identify relevant media and more specifically, relevant journalists and editors.

4.Search for a story

The chase for media coverage is a competitive race. To be successful, you have to know how to create stories of interest to your target media. Consider:

* New research findings that affect the media’s audience.
* The use of ‘days’ e.g. International Children’s Day.
* Being the biggest/best or first to make a significant achievement.
* An inspiring story a celebrity ambassador.
* Significant birthday or milestone e.g. 100 years of service, 1 millionth donor.
* Including a quirky, professional photograph to accompany your story.

5.Prepare a killer media release

Whenever you contact the media you’ll need a media release that summarises your story. It’s best to stick to these tips:

* Keep it about a page long.
* Display a phone number that’s contactable 24/7.
* Be factual, honest and concise.
* Create a heading that summarises
your story.

Your first paragraph should detail:

* What the story is about.
* Who is involved.
* Why it is happening.
* What they are doing.
* When it is happening.

Subsequent paragraphs expand on this information and introduce interesting spokespeople, who are available for interview.

6.Getting your story to the media

There are two ways you can do this:

The conventional way is to fax/email the release yourself, or through Media Monitors or AAP. The downside of this is competition. Some outlets receive hundreds of releases a day. If you do need to distribute a media release widely, make follow up calls to ensure your release has been received and seen – and use this as another chance to sell your story.

Alternatively, consider some of these strategies I’ve used to great effect over the years:

* Build relationships with relevant journalists by writing to them and congratulating them for reporting on ‘like’ topics.
* Ask if you can take a journalist to coffee to introduce yourself and your organisation.
* Offer your services to help journalists research topics of expertise to you. I once worked for a child welfare organisation who published a lot of research on children’s issues. We also had a lot of families prepared to talk to the media. By extending this offer to relevant journalists, we were often quoted in the papers.
* Use the quiet period over December and January to build relationships. PR people are generally on leave over this time and it’s easier to make yourself heard!
* If radio is relevant for you, ask your local ABC station if you can come and watch a program being put to air. You’ll learn how they prioritise stories and build vital relationships with producers.

7.Work with the journalist to finalise the story

Once you have interest, there can be a lot of work in pulling the story together.

* Keep your media release with you at all times, as well as any facts and statistics you’ve quoted.
* Make sure your spokespeople are available and properly briefed.
* Always attend interviews with your spokespeople.
* You may also need to work with photographers to co-ordinate any footage or images required.

8.Prepare for publication

It’s the small things you do from here that determine how well this coverage will help achieve your objectives. It’s important to:

* Brief your receptionist so they know how to answer any calls.
* If you are promoting a fundraising campaign – make sure your call centre is staffed to deal with calls at the right time.
* Get copies of the article, or ask Media Monitors to record any tv or radio coverage.
* Send copies to relevant stakeholders/funders.

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