Help the Media Spotlight Your Nonprofit
By John Pellegrino

John Pellegrino
John Pellegrino
Public relations can be a powerful, inexpensive tool that nonprofits can use to distinguish themselves, while building awareness and support among key constituencies, and they're more likely to succeed if they provide what the news media want.

The following tips will help:

Know What’s Newsworthy
Job one is to uncover as many newsworthy items as possible related to your organization. Ask the following questions: What is your organization doing differently than others? Are any staff members doing something extraordinary during or outside of work? Are celebrities attending your fundraiser? Are people positively impacted by your charity willing to tell their stories to the media?

An effective way to judge whether or not an item is newsworthy is to imagine seeing a news story on the topic. Does it seem out of place or is it something you can envision seeing in the news?

Get to the Point
Use your list of newsworthy items as a guide and develop the materials you will use to entice media members to report on your organization’s news. Press materials, including email pitches, press releases and calendar listings, should be brief and to the point. One solid quote from your nonprofit’s leader should do the trick.

Media members are busy juggling multiple projects and rarely have the time to look over multi-page press releases and never-ending email pitches. Place the meat of the newsworthy item at the very beginning of any release or email correspondence and illustrate why their target audience would be interested.

Identify Your Media Targets
Use your time wisely and only target media outlets who report on the subject matter you are pitching, or outlets covering news or events within your region. Local weekly papers and regional daily papers crave local news so they should be your first target.

The Boston Globe features bi-weekly regional sections covering many communities in eastern Massachusetts and also seeks localized news. The Worcester Telegram and Springfield Republican are great media outlets for organizations west of Boston to target. Radio/TV public affairs programs book guests to discuss charitable causes. Internet searches for media contact information will do the trick when online media databases used by PR firms are not at your disposal.

Pitch Politely
The way you present your story ideas to the media can spell the difference between success and failure. Media members don’t have the time and patience for fluff and slick sales pitches. Most importantly, make sure you understand the publication's focus and interests. Editors instantly know if you have never read the publication, and don’t have the time to educate you.

Keep interactions on point and brief. Avoid sending attachments whenever possible. Posting information within the body of your email makes it easier for media members to access your message.

Bombarding media members daily may result in your phone messages being instantly deleted and your email address landing on the blocked list. An initial email pitch, follow up call, and follow up email within a two-week time frame should suffice. Move on the next person if you get no response. Offer photos or videos as an adjunct to your pitch when appropriate. Respond as soon as possible when contacted by the media to ensure interview details are confirmed. A quick response will prevent your story from being set aside for another.

Get “Social”
Social media is a free and valuable asset to instantaneously spread your message to a large audience. Get as many followers across the various social media channels as possible and make every post count. Develop a humorous Top 20 list as an effective way to promote fundraisers and post one item a day leading up to the event.

An attention-grabbing way to promote your charity via social media is to post interesting facts related to your cause. Keep your followers engaged and entertained.

Convey the Message
Securing media interviews is a positive step, but it's wasted if your spokesperson fails to convey the proper message. Have a detailed plan mapped out before interviews, including facts and statistics to illustrate why your nonprofit’s cause/event is worthy of donation and participation. Television and radio interview answers should be kept short. Broadcast interviews generally last a few minutes so don’t spend your entire time answering one question. Provide dynamic video to accompany show interviews or news stories.

Be clear to your interviewer if making “off the record” comments—before you make those comments—to ensure private comments are not made public.

Use Your Placements
Make your news coverage the gift that keeps on giving. Create a book filled with your prominent news coverage and proudly display it at your office, fundraising events, and other public outings. Update your website’s “In the News” section with your latest news coverage. Use your media coverage as a tool to secure grant money.

John Pellegrino is the founder of Let It Be Known Public Relations, specializing in promoting nonprofits and their events. Reduced monthly rates offered to local nonprofits. Call him at 617-872-1875 or email
June 2017