We’re lucky to work with foundations and nonprofits that have incredible stories to tell. Securing media coverage of these stories is one excellent way to generate more awareness of your cause, which can lead to attention from new funders, interest from supporters or advocates, or spikes in donations.
National media attention is stuff of communications dreams. We often hear from clients that they want to see their name in lights—in The New York Times, Chronicle of Philanthropy or the TODAY Show.
As your most avid supporters, we, too, want to see these outlets write a story about your organization’s great work. However, earning national media attention takes time, relationship building and perseverance.
Applying these three trusted media relations principles consistently can significantly increase your nonprofit or foundation’s chances of earning national media coverage.
Know Your End Goal
Earning any kind of media attention, but especially national media attention, requires playing the long game. It’s tempting to launch right into a media relations program with dreams of Anderson Cooper boasting about your nonprofit’s work. But first stepping back to identify how media coverage plays a role in your organizational growth at large will inform a strategy that will lead to greater success in the end.
Think about what your organization’s goals are for the next one year or five years. If one of your goals is to attract new funders for your education programs, think about what kind of news these funders might read. A story in The Washington Post is great, but more precisely, a story in one of The Washington Post’s education blogs, like The Answer Sheet, is even better. Knowing this specific target can help you identify a razor-sharp list of reporters that you can pitch.
Do Your Research
Investing time upfront to research what the reporters you want to reach care about will pay dividends. Once you know your goals and have identified what kind of national media you should target (for example, health reporters covering medical research funding), dedicate time to understanding their interests. Subscribe to their articles or follow them on Twitter to stay on top of their reporting.
Having deep knowledge of their work will help you craft targeted pitches that connect your organization’s story to the issues they care about. Beyond that, surveys of national reporters have revealed that nearly 80 percent of journalists express that PR pros should tailor media pitches to their beat or coverage, and 77 percent say that research and understanding their media outlet is important.
Monitor News for Opportunistic Pitching
Opportunistic pitching, or news hijacking, has proven to be one of the most fruitful ways to secure national media coverage. This means inserting your organization’s story into an existing, national news story that is developing. This requires diligent news tracking to spot opportunities, and flexibility to craft and pitch stories on the fly.
We recently saw success with this approach for our client Consano, a national online platform that empowers individuals to crowdfund medical research that matters to them. Once we learned that an Intel executive used Consano to reach his funding goal to fund a clinical trial to advance research in precision medicine, we jumped on the opportunity to pitch national and local media.
Working with the other stakeholders involved in the project, we reached out to reporters who have recently written about alternative funding sources—a developing story in the medical research field as declines in federal funding have motivated researchers to seek alternative sources. As a result, we secured coverage in GeekWire, a national technology publication that shared Consano’s unique story and model.
What are your tips for securing national media coverage? If you’re just starting your media relations program, be sure to brush up on media outreach best practices.