Media coverage is something that pretty much all organizations want, but very few actually get.
In this episode, we’re speaking with Jennifer Singh, founder of She’s Newsworthy Media a public relations agency that specializes in helping small businesses get recognized. Tune in to learn about how to pitch properly, timely and to the right person!
media relations for small nonprofits
It’s easy to see why small organizations want media exposure. Being on various news outlets serves as a way to build credibility for your brand. It’s an endorsement to say you’re legit, you’re doing good work and people are taking notice. It also increases your “brand recognition”.
what IS newsworthy anyways?
Do we really know what makes a good story for the media? Often it's hard to find our own stories that will resonate with other people. Jen teaches us that everyone can have a really great newsworthy story - you just need to answer the right questions that a reporter would ask you.
The first question they would ask is “so what?” and the next is “why now?”
These questions ask whether or not the story is timely and if there is anything else happening in the news that’s going to make this story more urgent. For instance, the holidays are a great time where charities do food, clothing or gift donations - making this a no-brainer event for the media to cover.
Think about what your organization is doing during crucial times of the year. Jen recommends looking at the media’s news cycle to see what people are talking about.
What’s not newsworthy? General donations or new partnerships announcements - unless you talk about who is going to benefit from that money. Instead of leading your pitch with money, Jen suggests talking about who’s getting that money and how it will impact their life.
Try flipping the story and start with the human interest angle. You do amazing work every day and the media wants a juicy story - it’s more exciting to explain how your work impacts a family or send a child with disabilities to camp than to simply state how much money you’ve received in donations.
preparing to pitch
If you’re going to pitch a story, be ready to have real faces to tell it as well. Jen suggests offering the reporters access to the family or whoever the main characters are in your story to tell them how their lives have been impacted.
You’ll have to create a press release, do some digging about the actual numbers and statistics, and convince people to speak to the media about their personal stories. Be aware that not everyone may be able to speak publicly about their situations - be sure to ask them for permission before offering their time to the media.
customize, customize, customize
It’s tempting to send a generic blast or post on the newswire, but stay away from using the same pitch with everyone. Just like your donor thank-you letters, you want to customize your pitches to whom you’re pitching to.
Avoid using “sir” or “madam” Figure out what their first name is, just as you would a donor letter. Jen suggests listening, watching and reading what those reporters or news outlets typically cover before you start pitching to anyone.
Make sure your story is relevant and a good fit for their content. The more you know about their shows and the type of segments they do, the easier it will be to figure out who you need to reach out to. Don’t forget to look into their audience as well! Every show has a different audience with different expectations for what they would like to watch or read about. A story that’s one fit for one show may not necessarily fit the other.
One trick Jen suggests is following reporters and those they actively engage with on Twitter. Some reporters and producers have their email addresses in their Twitter bios so be on the lookout for those too! It also doesn’t hurt to engage with them on Twitter before taking the plunge and sending them an email. When you’re really targeted, you can have a much more meaningful coverage opportunity.
pitching an exclusive
Every media outlet wants to feel special and as though they have the upper edge on their competition. Doing your research can help you narrow down who you want to pitch to - making your story exclusive to them and not 12 other outlets. If you’re providing an exclusive story, be sure it’s something that no one else has access to.
Attractive exclusive stories include access to a place, people or event that no one else would easily have access to. If your story is extra sensitive where the person may be at risk for telling their story, it’s better to pitch it as an exclusive as the media will take extra precautions to protect their privacy and identity. The media will make exceptions if it’s a really compelling story such as disguise their voice, change their name, blur out their faces or shoot their hands or feet. The media isn’t out to exploit anyone, they just want to tell good stories.
how to write a pitch
Writing a pitch can be difficult especially when we’re used to writing in a certain way (ie: not pitching the media). Think of pitching as though you’re emailing on a one-on-one basis. You want to get their attention but not in a click-bait way - you want to make a good first impression. Using a captivating headline that is short and sweet is the best way to do just that.
Reporters have A LOT of emails and use their mobile devices to check them - longer headlines can be cut off or they may miss the email altogether. Jen likes to write her email headlines in capital letters to get their attention.
The next step is writing your introduction. Within the first two sentences, say who you are, what the story is about and why you’re reaching out to them specifically. Try using phrases like “I think you’d be really interested in hearing this story” and “This is why you should have me in-studio.” You can leave all the other stuff like your background and experience for a media kit.
Then comes your background information. Some stories require a statistic as proof to show that you’ve done your homework that this is a newsworthy story or if there is something in the media that’s being covered on an on-going basis. You can even refer back to another article that they have published - avoid using ones from their competition! Do an introduction about the type of issue that you want to talk about - you can use bullet points to get your point across.
Finally, end it off with all of your contact information and how they can reach you. This whole pitch should be 250-300 words max. Keep it short, sweet and to the point. If you’re pitching to a breakfast show that runs from 6 A.M. to 10 A.M., send your email over at 11 A.M. when it’s not busy. Try not to send anything on a Friday unless the crew is on a weekend shift - which can be a great opportunity as the weekend shows look for more content since not too much goes on. If you need extra help, Jen has a template on her website as well as a coaching group to help you get better coverage!
building a relationship with the media
Just like your donors, you also need to build a sustainable relationship with those you pitch to. This can help make things much easier for future pitches and get your stories coverage faster. After you’ve sent your pitch, be sure to follow up after 48 hours. If they book you in, ask the right questions such as whether or not there’s going to be other people interviewed and getting information on it. You may also need to bring props with your guest or be prepared to show it to the host. When you’re in person and in the studio, take every chance to connect with someone on a human level with that person. It may only be 30 seconds or a minute since they’re so busy, but it will help build that relationship.
Once you’ve gotten your coverage, be sure to thank them and continue to follow-up or connect with them. This can mean following them on social media and once in awhile liking their post or making a comment. You don’t want to be too clingy, you just want to be present.
Jen urges you to be your authentic self at the end of the day because it’s all about building human connections.
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The Small Nonprofit is produced by Eloisa Jane Mariano