It's no secret that most nonprofits don't usually have giant budgets for advertising, at least not compared to their for-profit competitors. That difference can often make it difficult for organizations to compete with other companies that might provide similar services or products. At Goodwill Denver, we're very lucky that we've been able to invest in some paid advertising, but when we need to help close the gap between our competitors and make sure that the community knows about both our retail stores and our nonprofit mission, we often turn to media coverage.
Obviously, one of the biggest benefits of organic media coverage is that it’s free. However, that doesn’t always mean that it’s easy to attain. Thankfully, though, there is one fact working in favor of nonprofits: news stations are typically more eager to partner with a nonprofit over a for-profit company because they have very good stories to share. It’s how you share the story to a journalist, however, that can help secure coverage. There are a few tactics that can help ensure that stories about your nonprofit are selected:
- First and foremost, you need to have a compelling story. Make sure you identify heartfelt stories about the people (or other entities) that your organization has been able to help. One of the best ways to get the word out about what your nonprofit does is to share a success story in hopes that it will help you create more of them.
- Encourage your executive team to speak out in the community as experts. In other words, if you have a dynamic CFO that is willing to be a voice in the community, alert news stations or newspapers that he or she is willing to comment on current events. In this instance, a successful CFO would make a great commentator on a story about the state of the economy.
- Make sure to research what topics each particular publication or reporter usually covers. It may sound obvious, but if you’re pitching a story about education to someone who writes for a business magazine, your time would best be spent contacting the right people for your article.
- Create meaningful relationships with media contacts. Make it clear that you want your contacts to really get to know what it is that your nonprofit is seeking to achieve. Often times, you’ll find that you’ll connect with a journalist who feels passionately about the field you work in. Contacts like this are great for lots of reasons—but most importantly because your story will truly matter to them.
And always remember, if you have an advertising budget understand that you still need media relations. Several studies have shown that people generally trust a news source more than they would trust paid advertising. Viewers and readers assume that if the story comes from a trusted source, someone has likely looked into the background of the organization (or story) and have given it their stamp of approval. While ads are a great way to get your brand out to the public, media sources really help give it that extra trustworthy factor. It may take time and effort to create a strong media plan and relationships in the community, but it is absolutely worth every minute for your organization’s visibility.