I’ve had a few queries lately from various non profits about how best to increase the awareness of their work in the community with a limited (or often nonexistent) budget. So I thought I’d get some hints this week from, Kirsty Wallett, the Director of K.Franc Social, who has extensive experience in media relations. Here is what she said:
It can be a big challenge as a non profit organisation to justify the cost of undergoing a public relations campaign. Consultants can be expensive and public relations can seem complicated and overwhelming, especially the media relations aspect.
However, there are several elements of public relations you can begin to introduce into your organisation if a PR consultant or professional strategy is not an option for you. A media plan is a good place to start.
For a basic media plan you need a few things, most importantly, a way to tell the media your story or newsworthy event. The starting point for this is a media release.
Before you send out a media release you need to tick a few boxes:
A newsworthy story or event
This is the most important element of your media release. With so many non profits (not to mention consumer brands, corporate companies and government agencies) vying for media coverage, the simple launch of your latest fundraising campaign is not always enough to get a journalist interested.
But there are a few news angles that always work well for non profit organisations:
- A story about a local community member who has been helped by your non profit organisation (of course your subject needs to consent to being involved in any public relations activity).
- A ‘first’ event or accomplishment for your charity that is relevant to your local community.
- If you utilise volunteers, a story about a local volunteer who has dedicated a long period of time to your organisation.
(This is just a general guide, what is newsworthy always depends on what specific work your cause does and the diversity of your local media.)
A media spokesperson
If you’re going to send out a media release then you have to be prepared for interview requests from the media, and that means you’ll need a media spokesperson.
Many people are unfamiliar with the media and therefore uncomfortable – but you don’t have to be! As a charity with a newsworthy story or event, you have an advantage – the majority of the time your story is positive and community-based, so you’re less likely to be asked tricky questions. However, you do need a spokesperson who is comfortable with speaking to others.
Ideally the head of your organisation (CEO or Director) would be your media spokesperson, but it can also be a key person within your organisation – fundraising manager, community manager etc. Someone who is comfortable speaking and has a sound knowledge of the organisation is always a good choice. It doesn’t really matter what their actual position is, as they can be known just as ‘the spokesperson’ for media purposes.
One contact point for the media
Having a dedicated media spokesperson makes it easier for the media to get in touch with you should they want to initiate story. It’s also good to have one contact on the bottom of any media release you send to media, so there’s no room for confusion.
A media release template
This will help your media release look professional and consistent, and it means that you can have a few different staff members developing content. Each company can decide what type of font or headline/branding you use but there is generally a standard format for media release. You can find lots of examples of templates online.
Finally, always include a brief about your company (especially if your brand isn’t well known) at the bottom of your media release, including clear and easy-to-read contact details for the media spokesperson.
Content is the most challenging part, but if you keep it simple, you will develop a media release that is easy for journalists and news editors to read.
Put the most important piece of information at the top. The subsequent paragraphs should contain less important information. Get a quote from your spokesperson in as early as you can and make sure the quotes don’t repeat information you’ve already said earlier. They should add to the content, not regurgitate it.
Try to keep your media release content to one page. This is easier to read and means your information will get to the point quickly. Of course, there can be instances where you need to send information to media that is longer than one page, but this is rare.
That’s some excellent advice from Kirsty and some easy-to-follow steps to help improve your public relations results. Have you been able to achieve some positive results from public relations work? How has publicity helped your cause? We’d love to hear you thoughts.
See you in the pond,
The Fish Chick.
P.S A bit more about Kirsty and K.Franc Social… Kirsty Wallett is a social media and digital marketing specialist with more than 10 years experience in the media, marketing and communications industries. She has a passion for helping community organisations raise their profiles through positive public relations and effective use of social media. You can contact her at email@example.com or on Twitter @kirstywallett.