For most nonprofits, a write-up about the important work you’re doing in a major publication like the New York Times would be a dream come true. But major coverage like that doesn’t happen by chance.
Many nonprofits are reactive about the way they handle public relations for their organization. Their director of communications might field requests for comment as they arrive or write a press release for a major announcement. But, a larger strategy often doesn’t exist beyond that.
That’s too bad. Donors, funders and volunteers may choose to support one organization over another based on media coverage. Potential participants in your programs and services may also learn about you through media. A strong nonprofit PR strategy can help you maintain relevance over the long term, build your reputation and get more people involved.
What you can gain from a strong nonprofit PR strategy
Nonprofit PR can be a great way to gain exposure for your organization without paying a ton for advertising. Media coverage is often an organization’s first touchpoint for key audiences and can help build relationships with:
- Donors and Volunteers. When your organization attracts media coverage, donors and volunteers can have a stronger understanding of what their support does and whether your organization is a good choice.
- Funders. Some family foundations don’t have websites or clear application processes, so how do you get their attention and support? Media.
- Policy. Legislators are guided by what their constituents and the general public want or feel strongly about. If your organization works in advocacy, nonprofit PR is a crucial element for making your case.
Building your nonprofit’s PR strategy
At Prosper, we consider your nonprofit PR strategy as just one part of your marketing mix. Your nonprofit PR goals should align with your overall marketing and communications goals. So, if you want to raise awareness, educate the public about why your focus is important, or get more supporters, you should craft your nonprofit PR strategy to serve those goals.If you want to raise awareness, educate the public about why your focus is important, or get more supporters, you should craft your nonprofit PR strategy to serve those goals. Click To Tweet
We know from experience that, when done well, traditional media outreach takes a lot of time. It can be harder to get interest from reporters if you’ve never had any coverage before. As you’re getting your nonprofit PR strategy off the ground, we recommend trying these techniques on top of reporter outreach:
- Leverage social media as a PR tool. Today, the public opinion is more often swayed by conversations on social media than by a single article in a local newspaper. For the same reach, get your staff and supporters behind a social media push for your organization. Share a “social media kit” with them so they have all the links, images, hashtags and key messages they need to amplify your story on their own platforms.
- Use free tools like HARO to submit quotes. HARO, or “Help a Reporter Out,” is a tool for reporters to field quotes from experts in the topic they’re covering. Sign up for HARO’s emails, and three times a day, you’ll receive a digest of stories in progress to skim for topics relevant to your organization. Submit a response that answers the query, and your quote could be featured in a major newspaper, magazine or web outlet.
- Submit op-eds and LTEs. An editorial from the perspective of your leader that highlights the pressing issue your organization solves can be an effective way to appear online or in print. In your role, you likely already stay up to date with coverage in your focus or issue area. Take one of those articles as an opportunity to join the conversation by responding with a letter to the editor, or LTE.
And last but not least, don’t forget to take a look at what kind of media coverage your comparator organizations are receiving. You may be able to find gaps in their messages that your organization can fill with your own expertise.
As you develop your PR strategy, how do you know whether or not your pitches will land with reporters? In our resource, we talk about what makes something newsworthy for a nonprofit. Download now.