How To Pitch Your Nonprofit for Free Media Coverage

email marketing marketing strategy public relations publicity Jul 30, 2017

We all know the value of free publicity. Getting the word out about your nonprofit is essential for sustaining and growing your organization. It catches the attention of the public, amplifies awareness and adds credibility to the work you are doing.

The question is: How best to get the attention your nonprofit deserves in today’s fast-paced media environment?

In my 20+ years as a marketing professional, I’ve noticed this: nonprofits love the idea of getting free media coverage, but often aren’t willing to strategically take advantage of it.

Sure, you likely send out a media release or two during the year (usually via mass email) announcing a new initiative or staff change. Maybe you even use the free calendar of events listing in your hometown paper.

The important piece that’s often missing is the cultivation of relationships with influential people in the media – reporters, editors, radio personalities, bloggers, vloggers, content writers, and producers of podcasts. These are the folks who can really draw attention to your cause.

I get it. You have lots of (perfectly legitimate) reasons for this, and I’m sure you’ll nod as you recognize some of them:

  • I don’t have a big PR budget and I can’t hire a firm to do this for me.
  • I don’t have the media contacts
  • “They” (insert media here) aren’t interested in my nonprofit
  • I’m buried in day-to-day operations; I don’t have time for this.
  • I have no idea where to start.

Cultivating the media does not have to be an intimidating, time consuming project. It doesn’t involve you creating a huge presentation or doing hours of research. It really all starts with a simple email. 

Yes, it’s a competitive market, but here’s what you need to know: There is still lots of opportunity to land media coverage. 

Why? Media – whether it’s a printed publication, podcast, radio show or website – is expected to produce ongoing, fresh content. All the time. It’s a machine that goes 24/7/365 and it needs stories to feed it.

What the machines are particularly hungry for are unique positive content. There is so much gloom and doom to be reported on every day - armed conflict abroad, highly contentious politics at home, natural disasters, crime – and everyone is looking for something that restores our faith in humanity. We want to know that amid all the contentious, hard-hitting media there are good things happening. We want to learn about those trying to help others and making a positive difference. 

In short, we want to hear about you and the good work your organization is doing.

But please know this. The first step in connecting with the media is not a massive pitch or “deep-dive” analysis. It’s checking out where you want to be featured and where your story fits well, who’s doing the writing or broadcasting about organizations like yours, and saying, “Hello.” 

It’s best if you ease into it – start small, gain confidence, establish media relationships and then go big.

Maybe the first personalized outreach is to the person who writes about community events. Introduce yourself and attach a press release on your upcoming fundraiser. Then reach out to a monthly publication and test if there’s interest in doing a feature about your cause. Is there a local radio show in your area? They probably are anxious to book guests and are looking for leaders in the community who are working to make conditions better.

You have a lot of wonderful stories to share: how you got started, anecdotes about successful clients, the details of your latest campaigns. You can also offer your expertise on the larger cause your nonprofit addresses (homelessness, gender equality, education) so these content creators can reach out to you when they need you.

You can build and foster relationships that will benefit both your organization and the media outlet you are pitching. It’s a win-win relationship you’re working towards and those are always most rewarding both personally and professionally.

Know that you have something of value to share – it’s not hype, it’s not self-serving and it’s something that deserves to be shared with as many people as possible.