How to Work with the Media to Promote Your Nonprofit
Although some nonprofits pay for advertising to spread the word, most organizations rely on free publicity from the media. Here’s some advice for getting started with the mass media:
Pay attention to the areas of interest of different media outlets, writers, and reporters and match your story to these interests.
Write (or record or film) a basic document and vary it to address the different media interests that you appeal to, making use of your multiple story angles.
Send your release in an e-mail. Write a short introductory note and then cutting and pasting the press release into the body of the e-mail so you don’t risk the possibility of your recipient being unable to open an attachment.
If you don’t receive a response to your e-mail within two days, call the press contact. Persist in following up on every item you send to the press, but stop if you hear a firm no or if can hear a tone of annoyance in the writer’s voice.
Keep the press fully informed about any changes in your story. Printing incorrect information makes them look bad and may hurt your chances of future coverage.
Invite the press to make a visit to your program or orchestrate other forms of direct interaction.
Take rejection graciously if your media contact decides not to use your story. You need to be able to go back to these people in the future.
Different media outlets require different amounts of lead time. In an ideal situation, you want to begin your efforts to reach the media four or five months in advance of that hoped-for coverage. The first two months are spent creating press releases and public service announcements and shooting photographs.
After you’ve done the initial legwork over the first couple of months, then you start distributing the materials:
Most monthly magazines need to receive your press release and photographs at least two — preferably three — months in advance of publication.
At the same time that you’re mailing to magazines, you want to send advance notice to your most important daily and weekly outlets.
Send public service announcements two to three months prior to the time when you hope they’ll be used. Although most stations have set aside time for broadcasting nonprofits’ announcements, they need time to rotate through the many announcement materials they receive.
Press releases to daily or weekly papers should be sent four to six weeks in advance of the event you want covered. You also may send follow-up releases approximately ten days prior to the event. You certainly want to make follow-up phone calls.
Releases inviting members of the press to a press conference or to witness a special event or announcement may be sent three to ten days in advance of the event.