Media coverage of your nonprofit organization can help increase community awareness, promote upcoming events and engage new donors.
It’s important to decide which of your initiatives and programs are newsworthy to limit the number of times you pitch story ideas to a media outlet. If you bombard the media or keep sending irrelevant press releases, then your big announcements won’t make any impact.
Select four of your major happenings (events, announcements, campaigns) during the year to pitch for media coverage. For each happening, find the best angle for your pitch: a milestone, a new element or an inspiring human-interest testimonial from a client, volunteer or board member. Find the best angle that will help “sell” your pitch. Reporters are looking for story ideas that are timely, urgent, relevant, new or compelling.
In the upcoming “Courting the Media” class on March 20th, attendees will learn how to identify a newsworthy story idea, develop a pitch and work with a reporter. A local anchor/reporter from one of the TV affiliates in Richmond will join us to share tips on landing coverage for your organization.
Creating and fostering relationships with members of the media – journalists, editors, and producers – is a crucial part of your communications work.
Here are 6 tips on how you can establish and nurture relationships with the media in Richmond:
- Introduce yourself.
TV and radio personalities are continually at local events, such as the Richmond Flying Squirrels games, the State Fair of Virginia and the Dominion Christmas Parade. Radio hosts also frequent new store openings and broadcast live. Attend these events and introduce yourself. Follow-up with an email and include the date of your next major event or a time-frame of when you’ll be pitching a story about your nonprofit organization.
- Tune in to the local news.
It’s important to become familiar with the reporters in town so you’re aware of their beat, which could be health, education, crime or politics. You should know what media outlet they work for, as well as what shows or days of the week they work. Watch the local newscasts, read the newspapers and listen to the news segments on the radio stations. Start a list of the reporters who cover nonprofits or report on topics related to your cause, such as housing, health or early childhood education.
- Follow them on social media.
On social media, follow the media outlets and personalities that could cover a story on your nonprofit organization. You’ll learn more about the type of stories they cover, their interests, their schedule and if they are looking for story ideas. Plus, they usually announce if they are attending an upcoming community event (go and introduce yourself!). Use the information you learn via social media to help with your email, phone and in-person conversations with the media. Ask the editor how her child’s soccer game went, or if he had a wonderful time on vacation last week. These interactions move us away from the Junk Mail folder and into the Follow Up folder.
- Enter awards.
Many of the media outlets in the Richmond region coordinate or sponsor awards programs, such as Style Weekly’s Top 40 Under 40 and Boomer Magazine’s Boomers & Shakers Awards. Enter them every year! If you or one of your colleagues is a winner, you’ll have a chance to meet and engage with the media outlet. Plus, the promotion of the winner will provide your nonprofit agency with lots of free exposure.
- Ask a media personality to M.C. or host your event.
Many TV anchors and radio hosts will M.C. awards events, fundraising luncheons, anniversary galas or scholarship programs, as well as closing programs at golf tournaments and 5K races, benefiting nonprofit organizations. It never hurts to ask!
- Thank a reporter.
Compliment the media when they do a story or positive editorial about a priority issue or event of yours. If a reporter has quoted you or a member of your Board of Directors, send a note of appreciation.
And, remember, the most important element of establishing a relationship with the media, is to pitch good story ideas. Join us at the upcoming “Courting the Media” class on 3/20/17 to learn more about building media relationships and landing coverage for your nonprofit organization!
Dena Reynolds, M.S., Principal and Owner of RVA Communications, is a Public Relations Consultant for nonprofits to help them increase their awareness in the community. She works to land media coverage for clients, deliver creative communication strategies and train teams in effective public relations tactics. In 2010, she was awarded “Best in Show” at the Virginia Public Relations Awards.
Reynolds teaches communications classes for The Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia, as well as Tidewater Community College’s Academy for Nonprofit Excellence in Suffolk, Va. She was named VCU’s Nonprofit Learning Point “Instructor of the Year” in 2012.
Prior to consulting, Reynolds worked in nonprofit public relations and broadcasting. She was LifeNet Health’s Media Relations Manager in Richmond, Va., for ten years and won numerous awards in media relations, event planning and marketing. She served as the spokeswoman for LifeNet, and encouraged Virginia and national media outlets, including The History Channel, National Geographic Channel, and CNN, to produce stories on organ donation.
Prior to LifeNet Health, Reynolds worked at WRIC TV8, the ABC affiliate in Richmond, Va., as Promotion Manager. During her time at TV8, she won a National Gold PROMAX (National Association of Media Promotion and Marketing Professionals) award for producing and was nominated for three regional Emmy awards for writing and producing. She started her broadcasting career at WHSV TV3 in Harrisonburg, Va., and NBC29 in Charlottesville, Va.
Reynolds holds a Master of Science in Mass Communications from Virginia Commonwealth University, and a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communications from James Madison University. She earned various certificates in event planning, nonprofit management and fundraising and development.
Reynolds is a 2010 graduate of the Emerging Nonprofit Leaders program and the past President of the alumni committee for the program.