Some nonprofit organizations struggle to secure media coverage while other, similar organizations seem to scoop it all up. Why is that? Often, it all comes down to how an organization is presenting itself in its messaging to the general public, across marketing materials and directly to reporters.Some nonprofit organizations struggle to secure media coverage while others scoop it all up. Why is that? Click To Tweet
At Prosper Strategies, we excel in securing media placements for all of our nonprofit clients, but one client that has seen better than average nonprofit PR success is the Great Books Foundation.
The Great Books Foundation is a 70-year-old educational nonprofit organization that promotes in-depth, thought-provoking discussions about literature for students and adult readers of all ages and provides the reading materials, questions and instructor training to facilitate those discussions. And in the last year, they’ve earned media coverage from major outlets like the Huffington Post, CBS online and more.
Your organization could see the same success. For a moment, let’s take a walk in the Great Books Foundation’s shoes. Using the precedent set by the Great Books Foundation, here are some tips for securing great media coverage for your nonprofit organization:
Clearly and accurately communicate your mission in your outreach
An effective mission statement should say what you do, how you do it, and who you do it for. Additionally, it should demonstrate the value that you’re bringing to the world. When you communicate why your mission is currently relevant in your outreach to reporters, they’ll be more likely to pay attention.
The Great Books Foundation’s mission is aspirational but clear: “Through Shared Inquiry™ discussions of enduring literature, we advance social and civic engagement and help people of all ages think critically about their own lives and the world we share.” And this mission has been particularly important in a politically heavy and disruptive year, which leads us to our next tip.
Align your story with current events in a way that’s resonant and takes risks
Ask yourself: “Why is our organization and its work particularly important to the world right now?” Your answer to that question is newsworthy.
It may be scary to attach yourself to a particular issue, especially a political one, because you don’t want to alienate any donors or other stakeholders. But you have to remember that you can’t be everything to everyone. People care about what’s happening in the world right now, and you can get the attention you’re looking for by igniting the public’s passions.
During the 2016 election cycle, we had the idea to pitch a feature on students participating in a Shared Inquiry discussion about a divisive topic (immigration, through the lens of Emma Lazarus’ poem New Colossus) to demonstrate that anyone, even young children, can successfully engage in civil discourse. We rode the media wave following the presidential debates and focused our attention on pitching the story to major national outlets. The piece was picked up by CBS online and showed that with civil discourse training from Great Books, many children become far more effective (and respectful) debaters than presidential candidates.
Spotlight the powerful personalities and expertise of your organization
Without a compelling figure or figures to talk to reporters when they become interested in your organization, the finished story will be weak and won’t successfully communicate your organization’s key messages. You need at least one spokesperson who is well-versed in your mission, goals and initiatives to take the lead and be your voice for stories.
Great Books Foundation’s president Joe Coulson is an engaging personality with a background in writing, fascinating ideas about education, experience as an educator himself and a passion for the organization’s mission. As a result, interviews with Joe and his bylined guest pieces have been featured on The Huffington Post’s Pioneers for Change blog as well as in educational outlets EdScoop and Education Dive.
And in addition to Joe, the Great Books Foundation is particularly lucky to have multiple trainers and education and literature experts who can serve as the voice of the organization for any topic. Great Books Foundation team members have been featured in pieces on using literary discussions to combat school bullying, intersectional feminist issues and more.
Don’t pass on inviting media to any and all special events your organization hosts
Timely events are a perfect opportunity to attract media attention for your organization. Reach out to reporters in advance of an event and tell them how the event will help you further your mission, who you will help and, most importantly, why your initiatives are particularly important now.
And don’t focus your attention only on major outlets. You can also seek out niche publications targeting audiences that are directly related to the event topic. When the Great Books Foundation participated in a local event featuring a discussion on LGBTQ+ and immigrant experiences with a contributor to one of their anthologies, we secured event coverage in the Windy City Times, Chicago’s oldest LGBTQ+ news publication. And while circulation is small, the impact of a piece in this highly-focused newspaper was far greater than that of a more general publication.
Offer quantitative proof of your organization’s impact
It’s no secret that reporters like numbers. Do you have any data that clearly demonstrates that what your organization does to help your constituents actually works? Or, do you have donor accountability information or mission measurement for annual reports? This can be helpful with nonprofit PR outreach as well. Share it!
Through our work with education clients over the years, we’ve learned that education reporters take particular interest in proven methods with actionable steps educators can take to help students succeed and grow. The Great Books Foundation conducts studies on student test scores over the course of several years to assess the impact of their literature discussion programs. These studies have generated interest from major media outlets like The Washington Post and NPR as well as smaller education-focused news sites like The Hechinger Report and Edutopia.
I’ll leave you with one rule of thumb: lean heavily on what’s unique about your organization and why that matters now. Does your leadership have an interesting background? Is your mission something that hadn’t been considered before your organization was founded? Do you have a unique take on solving a problem that demonstrably works? Focus on that aspect in your outreach to reporters and your nonprofit PR coverage will be far easier to secure.
If you have any questions about how you can secure more media coverage for your organization, contact us. Or, you can download our Essential Nonprofit Marketing Plan Template.
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Does your organization’s team need guidance communicating the importance of your mission? Download our free Essential Nonprofit Marketing Plan Template to develop a strategy that will help you secure media placements and spread awareness of your organization’s impact.