10 Tips for Getting Local Media Attention for Your Nonprofit

Most of the news and information you see on the TV news or in the daily newspaper was generated by people just like you. They send information to the media, usually via press releases and personal contact.

And good news from nonprofit organizations like yours shows up on TV or in the newspaper in the same way. 

Unless your nonprofit plays on a national stage, you should not worry about trying to crack the New York Times or ABC News. Stick to placing a good story in your local media. After all, you want to catch the eye of supporters who live right down the street.

And, you could end up on the national stage as well.  A well-kept secret is that many national news stories start at the local level. For instance, a national TV network might notice an engaging story on its local affiliate station. They think it would appeal to a bigger audience. Voila! You're on the national news. 

There are two types of news you will want to get out.  One uses news releases. These work best for stories that you want many media outlets to cover, such as a special event like a charity run, or to announce the appointment of a new CEO. You can write one release and send it to all of your local media outlets.

However, most of your media work should be directed at pitching unique stories to local media and reporters that you've cultivated over time.

Journalists love human interest stories, especially when they involve a David and Goliath theme. Think about someone overcoming overwhelming obstacles, or a child that was in need that your organization helped. 

Those types of stories are just the ones to touch the hearts of potential donors, who still get most of their information about good causes through the traditional media.

Here are some tips for getting your organization noticed by your local media.

1
Get to know the media that are most likely to cover you.

Woman reporter in a newsroom
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Read and watch the media in your local area. Subscribe to the newspapers and magazines; watch the local news; bookmark media websites; and join any organizations where you are likely to meet reporters and editors (some cities have press clubs that you can join).

2
Learn the names of the reporters who cover the beats most significant to you.

For instance, health reporters or sports reporters may be the ones who would be interested in your news. Then you can send your information directly to them rather than just to the "editor."

Don't forget more specialized reporters such as the society page editor who might be interested in your special event if it involves community leaders. The calendar page editor will want your event listings. Most newspapers also carry a list of volunteer opportunities, so find out who writes those.

3
Get to know reporters personally.

Start by arranging a short meeting at their papers or TV stations to introduce yourself. Be considerate of their busy schedules and make it brief. Drop off some printed material or personally deliver that press release instead of mailing or emailing it. Over time, you will have other opportunities to develop these contacts into more familiar relationships.

Check with other staff members, volunteers, and board members to see if they know reporters. They could be a relative, a neighbor, or a business acquaintance with many local media personalities.

4
Send complimentary copies of your publications to reporters.

Instead of just sending publications out with your mass mailings, send a copy with your business card attached.

You can also attach a note directing a reporter or editor to some item in the publication that might be of particular interest.

You can't just sign up a reporter for your email communications, but once a reporter is interested, he or she will likely subscribe to your email newsletter or follow your organization on social media.

Send an invitation to your special event to the appropriate reporter. Even if the reporter doesn't attend, the invitation will remind him or her of you and your organization.

Try to work in as many informal contacts with the reporter as possible. Eventually, you'll be remembered.

5
Keep up with the personnel changes at your favorite media outlets.

People in the media move around frequently. Keeping track is not easy. Develop a media list and keep it up-to-date. You may be able to subscribe to a media list for your region, but it can't substitute entirely for your own meticulously kept list.

Look for reporters on social media and follow them there. Do not pitch reporters that way, though, unless you have some indication that they welcome it. Do that through email, mail, or phone.

6
Always give the media information that is newsworthy.

Your information should be new, noteworthy, and relevant to a large share of the public. Reporters are not interested in yesterday's news, items that are of interest only internally to your organization, or everyday events.

Provide reporters with good human interest stories. Invite staff and volunteers at your organization to let you know about good story ideas that you might be able to pitch to the media. The best ideas often come from people who are on the front lines of your organization. 

7
Develop a virtual media kit that resides on your organization's website.

Journalists love it when you have lots of online resources for them.

Set up a virtual media kit that Includes the history of your nonprofit, its mission and goals, and brief profiles and photos of key staff and board members. Post your recent news releases and an online annual report

Set up a gallery of downloadable photos that show your organization in action. And make these free to use. Reporters are often writing quickly and need to meet deadlines. Readily available images will make their day. 

Read more about attracting media to your nonprofit with an online press room

8
Take advantage of breaking news stories to promote your organization.

Smart charities use newsjacking to make their organizations relevant to current events.

One way to do this is to develop a cadre of "experts" who can speak to the issues your organization addresses. Train these experts (they can be staff members and/or volunteers) and make them available to reporters when there is a relevant news event.

Even a hard freeze in my area prompts an interview with the Humane Society on how to protect your pets during cold weather and another with the Botanical Gardens about taking care of fragile plants.Think about the things you could be the go-to expert for.

9
Make yourself available to the media at any time.

Always provide your email address on your press releases and on your website contact page. But also include a mobile number where reporters can reach you day or night.

When you receive a call or a message from a reporter, get back to him or her as soon as you can. Reporters work on deadline and will appreciate your rapid response.

Even if you can't be much help to a reporter when he or she is researching a story, provide contacts at other nonprofits who might be able to help. Your cooperation will be remembered and will likely pay off eventually.

10
Always thank a reporter for his or her coverage.

Initially, thank the reporter by email, but also follow up with a handwritten thank-you note. Never underestimate the power of a sincere thanks. Plus, never nitpick over minor inaccuracies. They are not worth your effort, and there is nothing to be gained by irritating a reporter.

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