Media Relations is a cornerstone communications tactic for savvy nonprofits. By building relationships with the media, a nonprofit can communicate with its publics (like donors, volunteers and the general public) through news coverage on TV, print, radio and the web at no cost.
Having lived in small towns and larger cities, I know that getting coverage in the daily media of the big town is more difficult than getting covered in small community news outlets. Small towns are typically generous with covering interesting happenings where daily media outlets are bombarded with press releases and pitches.
Remember these three R’s to cut through the clutter and get the media’s attention when you send press releases or pitch a story.
Relationships. Getting news coverage is sometimes about WHO you know. Resist the urge to think that if you send the same press release to 100 contacts, then your odds are good. It isn’t a numbers game. I will typically send a press release to only a handful of reporters – only the ones who typically cover the subject in the release.
Also, build relationships with reporters who tend to cover the subject you are pitching. Read the newspaper and see who is reporting on similar stories. Watch the TV news to learn the reporters’ names. And even if you can’t listen to every local radio talk show, follow the major players on social media. Then, feel free to ask them to meet with you. The purpose for the meeting is to ask how YOU can help THEM in their effort to cover their assignments (not how they can help you!)
Relevance. Getting news coverage is also about WHAT you know! The easiest way to annoy a reporter is to send them information that isn’t relevant to what they cover. For instance, if you are an arts organization, don’t send an announcement about your latest show to a business reporter. Take the time to send press releases to individual reporters with a personal note. Pitch a story only to a reporter who covers the type of story you are pitching.
Also, make it easy for the editor to use your press release by writing it so well that they can simply copy and paste it. If you aren’t sure how, the Internet has a ton resources. Learn to write a proper press release.
Repetition. Media reps need to hear from you frequently before they get to know you, though there is a balance to not overdoing it (see Relevance above). Don’t be discouraged if you send several press releases or pitch several angles before one is finally picked up. If you form relationships and are relevant, less repetition will be needed.
Please remember that while media relations is “free”, it isn’t easy. It takes time and the results aren’t always exactly how you imagined them to be. While information appearing as a media story has greater “believability” than information appearing in an ad, sometimes purchasing an ad is a better choice when controlling the message is critical.
What tips and tricks do you use to build relationships with the media?