Whatever the mission of your nonprofit, you will probably work with reporters. Yes, even you, executive director, may need to work with reporters–especially if your organization is a small one with no communications staff.

Even if you’re one of the ‘lucky ones’ who has a communications director, the media often will want to talk to you anyway because of your expertise within your organization.

Here are six steps to take reporters happy as you promote your organization’s work and your messages through the media.

  1. Return Calls and Emails: One of the best ways to build a relationship with the press: return calls and emails promptly. This establishes you as a reliable source.
  2. Respect Deadlines: Reporters may have to file several stories a day. Always deliver promised information on schedule. This creates goodwill and allows time to use what you provide.
  3. Say “I Don’t Know” and Make a Referral: You don’t need to have all the answers. If you can’t answer a question, it’s okay to say “I don’t know” and make a referral to a colleague who does.
  4. Pitch a Story: Reporters are always on the hunt for good story ideas and your well developed pitch might catch their attention. To formulate a good pitch, do the following: 1) Make sure you know all the basic facts, 2) Consider why a member of public might care about your story and message to that effect,  3) Know what makes your idea timely and thus relevant,  and 4) Tap into emotion. Good stories inspire strong feelings.
  5. Build a Relationship: Still not sure how best to connect with a reporter—especially the one working your beat? Go directly to the source. Take them out to lunch or coffee. Ask about their needs and how you and your nonprofit can help.
  6. Make Your Press Release Web Friendly: It’s 2013! Social media is no longer ‘new‘ media—it’s just media! Don’t forget to provide sample tweets and web-friendly photo with your news release. Many outlets will post your content verbatim, so include links to relevant material and make your text easy to scan with short paragraphs and subheads.

Need more tips? The Colorado Nonprofit Association has an excellent communications guide, including a section on media relations.

What have been your biggest challenges in working with reporters and how have you overcome them? Share your experiences and ideas in the comments below.