Think Strategically to Get Nonprofit Publicity

Wed, Jan 22, 2014 at 7:00PM

Hardy Smith, Nonprofit Speaker & Consultant

Although nonprofits recognize the value of good publicity, many find it difficult to get the positive exposure they need.

To help organizations overcome this challenge, I asked  my friend publicity expert Pam Lontos (www.pamlontos.com) for advice.  She suggested that, despite having a worthwhile purpose, groups often fail to generate the publicity results they desire because they don’t think strategically.

“They must ensure that they are doing two things.  First, they must effectively connect with their audience, and second, they must think like the media thinks.”

Making the connection

In a fundraising campaign, the effectiveness of the publicity depends on how well the group connects with their likely donors.  To help make that audience connection, Pam advises creating publicity well in advance of a fundraiser.

“Building top-of-mind awareness for your cause creates a positive bond with your audience and sets in their minds the idea that their contributions are being used for a worthwhile purpose.”

Furthermore, repetition creates credibility.  “When you are in the news, and especially in print, your organization is seen as legitimate.  People make decisions based on emotion and they tend to respond favorably when they can identify with your name.”

Thinking like the media

Pam offers several recommendations that can make a significant difference in the amount of publicity your organization receives.

“Organizations tend to focus on what they do and that is a mistake. Remember what the media needs is people reading, listening to, or watching what’s being reported.  How can you make the story you want to pitch relate to their audience?”

Think about story angles that provide benefit and create interest.

“For example, providing information that solves a particular problem–such as prevention tips, guidance for coping, ways to deal with a certain situation, warning signs of developing trouble, or a list of how-to suggestions–is what people are looking for, and in turn that is what gets media interest,” Pam says.

She has several suggestions for stimulating creative storylines.

  • A compelling human interest story that relates to your cause.
  • What’s happening in the news that your group can relate to and take advantage of?  It’s important that you act quickly because the shelf life of media interest is usually 24 hours.
  • Chase’s Calendar of Events is a great resource for ideas.  There is a day for everything, which makes it easy to plan for and create timely stories.
  • New movies.  Look at issues being raised or challenges faced by the main characters.  If you have a tie in, contact the media and let them know about it.

The news media, publications, television programs, and radio shows all need content.  Strategically develop your publicity efforts by making frequent connections with your audience and thinking like the media.  If you can help the media fill their time and space with engaging information, they will in turn give you the publicity that is vital to your organization.


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