Appearing in a newspaper, or having a feature written about your work in a glossy magazine can change perceptions, drive donations and attract supporters to your cause. It’s no wonder we keenly put press releases together week in, week out, but with so many charities vying for page space how likely is it that we will hit the headlines and get media success?
There is definitely plenty of competition for every column inch but the five steps below will help you to make your mark.
I’ll be talking more about achieving media success for your cause at the Charity Writing and Communications Training Days on 25 and 26 October 2016.
Know what you’re trying to achieve
Why are you pursuing media coverage? As with any other aspect of your charity’s work it is important to be strategic. Consider what message you want to get across, who you’re trying to reach and your ‘call to action’ (what you want people to do once they have read about your work). These three questions will not only help you to build your story but also to work out which publications or programmes to approach.
Make it easy for a journalist to say yes
What you think is a great story might not appeal to anyone outside your organisation, so question whether it passes the ‘so what’ test? Once you’re over that hurdle, back the story up with plenty of supporting material such as statistics and case studies. Consider who might be a relevant spokesperson for your charity (it doesn’t always have to be the CEO) and whether you can offer up any other interviewees (volunteers or service users, for example).
Most media outlets will also have an active social media presence so provide photos as well as opportunities for audio/video. Some radio stations will work with you to create this content if you speak with them in advance.
If your story fits with a current news item it’s more likely to get picked up, but equally, producing a range of material with a long shelf life helps journalists who are working on different angles or with long lead times.
Be tailored in your approach
When you’re part of a small team (or you *are* the team) time is tight and it’s tempting to blast a press release out to as many outlets and journalists as you can think of. Instead, do your research. Target journalists, papers and magazines, TV and radio programmes that are likely to have an interest in your work.
Also, it might feel counterintuitive but moving newspapers down your list of priorities and instead concentrating on supplements, specialist magazines and trade press might help you to better reach your core audience.
Don’t fear the follow up
This tends to divide opinion, but unless you follow up on your pitch how will you know whether a journalist is going to run with your story? You don’t want to be taken by surprise; if your story appears you need to be able to maximise that coverage. Don’t make the follow-up call too soon, and definitely don’t be a nag. Smile, be friendly and get straight to the point: “do you think this is a good fit for your publication – is there anything else you need from me?” If you can, add extra value. Offer a few more statistics, or another interview opportunity.
Learn to deal with rejection
To be blunt, journalists work for their editors, not for you, and most news outlets have an agenda or political leaning which they won’t change to accommodate you. Don’t take it personally if they knock you back. Try to get feedback if you can but remember just how many pitches they receive. If at first you don’t succeed…
Gemma Pettman PR helps organisations build meaningful relationships, raise much-needed funds and generally shout about how good they are.