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How to Pitch Your Nonprofit Story to the Media

As a nonprofit organization, it can be very difficult to show up in the media. With all the politics and gossip that take up most of the audience’s attention, small organizations that do something out of the ordinary will always have a hard time getting “their five minutes” in the press.

However, it can be done. You just need the right approach and tools, and you can make it happen. The first thing to remember is: what you think matters... doesn’t necessarily matter to those in the press. So, how can you pitch your story and actually be perceived as important and worth publishing?


Consider the Needs and Wants of the Media, and Find the Perfect Outlet

The media will only consider a story if it’s interesting and, more importantly, relevant to a wide audience. That means that some information that you find important might be just boring to someone not working at your company – thus it won’t be picked by the media. This means that the story about a new board member or the upcoming internal presentation probably won’t be published.

Here’s what you can do about it:

  • Think about the topic you’re pitching. The editor of a newspaper might love your story, but still be unable to publish it because it just doesn’t fit the niche they cover. So, find your target media and do your research – you’ll save lots of time and energy. Take a look at their previous articles and things they usually cover and it should be pretty easy to determine if they might have an interest in your story.

    So, how do you find news outlets that would like your story?

  • First, you should know that it’s always a good idea to go to local media, for several reasons. Local CBS, ABC, and NBC affiliates are a great option. If your story gains traction through local coverage, the parent network may expand your reach. The biggest reason is pretty obvious – they cover a specific area that may not be that wide, so it’ll be easier to obtain coverage with them. Also, if you’re pitching a story that includes someone in the community that people want to hear about, you are more likely to have your news published.
  • Google! You can surely remember some previous stories from your niche, right? Check what websites published that information. The same outlets may be interested in your current story, too.
  • Connect with journalists on LinkedIn. Needless to say, you want to search for the journalists who’ve covered your type of story before. LinkedIn is great for making connections, since you can send them a message and ask if they would be interested in your story. Don’t be afraid to make the cold pitch; journalists are always looking for more stories to cover, so you’re actually helping them with this.

We’d recommend sending around 15 pitches to different media (consider all types – TV, radio, newspapers and online media) to ensure coverage by at least a few of them.


Personalize Your Pitch

Write a personalized pitch not only to show you’re a professional but also that you took time to get to know the person you’re talking to. Now, how do you know who to contact in an organization you don’t have a relationship with? Well, the easiest thing to do is go over to their website (everyone has one now, especially when it comes to the media) and go to the Contact page. But, prior to doing that, you’ll need to do a little research of your own and find out who in the organization deals with stories like yours. If you can find out their name, but not the email address, there are several ways you can find it. Checking their LinkedIn profile, for example, is a good place to start.

*Important tip: Don’t email all the journalists in an organization. Pick one reporter that seems to work on topics similar to yours, and contact him, along with an editorial email. You don’t want to be a spammer.

  • And how do you write that perfect pitch?
  • Address the reporter by their name.
  • Do a little research on your own and find some of their previous published works that may have a connection to what you’re doing. You know flattery can go a long way, so don’t hesitate to use it... moderately! Say that you were impressed with the way they covered a similar story and you believe they would be the best mediator for your own story.
  • There’s a reason why it’s called an elevator pitch. It must be brief and informative. Keep in mind that reporters go through several emails per day, so they won’t have the time to read endless rambling just to see what your point is.

Provide the most important information:

  • Who are you? Give your name and explain your relation to the non-profit organization that’s the source of the story.
  • What does the organization stand for? Include its mission statement, so the journalist will know what they are dealing with.
  • What is the call to action?

Why should this person and their audience care for your organization and the story itself? This is the point where you personalize the pitch. You’re talking about their specific audience, so you clearly can’t send the same message to journalists from different media outlets.


Offer the Type of Story They Would Love to Cover

When you’re trying to make a story attractive for news organizations, you have to make it newsworthy. These are the types of stories that work for the media:

  • Straight news – These are stories that report essential information in the most straightforward manner.
  • Feature – When compared to straight news, this is a more in-depth article that relies on storytelling. Over 100 Dogs and Monkeys Were Rescued from Michigan Democrat’s Shuttered Company­ – that’s an example of a feature published by Huffington Post.
  • Editorial – This is the type of publication that includes the reporter’s personal point of view about the particular event. Out of the City and into Fresh Air is a good example of an editorial, published by The New York Times.

Your story can be provided in any of these forms. The important thing to keep in mind is that all these forms of journalistic writing are based on newsworthy information. So you have to make your story or event newsworthy!

Research through the news agencies you have in mind, so you’ll see what types of publications they prefer. Then, write your pitch in accordance with their style.


Be Well Prepared

If you give the media what they want and need, it’ll be easier for them to write the story and they’ll be happier to do it. Once a journalist gets your pitch and they are interested in covering the story, they will probably contact you for more information. At that point, you need to:

  • Know all the facts and figures by heart and understand them well, so you’re able to present them.
  • Know how to summarize your story while talking to the journalist – they usually don’t have time for long conversations, nor will they care.
  • Double check all the information – nobody is going to be happy if they end up publishing wrong data thanks to you.
  • Photos are a must, and we really hope there’s no need to clarify this any further. The photos should grasp the point of your message.

Be Accommodating

If someone from the media found your story interesting – make sure they stick to it. Be accessible and make your people ready at any point to provide information or an interview. Remember, they are doing you a favor, and it’s up to you what the story is going to look like! Show them what your company’s made of – present the great people and causes you work for, and make them remember you.

Also, if you provide them with a great experience, help save their time and give them good information, they’ll be happy to tell another story about you when you need them to. When you establish a good relationship with a media outlet, it will be easier for you to get coverage for upcoming stories.


Think outside the Box

Sure, reporters are always after stories to cover. However, that doesn’t mean they will take anything. They want good stories, since their reputation depends on the materials they cover.

  • Try to think from the reporter’s point of view – what do they need to make the story awesome? That’s your hook, right there. “This event will revolutionize the way people see and use plastic.” That’s an example of a good hook, since it shows that you’re offering something valuable and important for the reporter to cover.
  • If your hook works, try to provide them with all the necessary information, photos, quotes, case studies or anything else that you think they might find useful for successful coverage. They’ll be grateful for it, trust us.
  • If they don’t have time for your story now – think of some other angle or idea that may work. Offer to write the article or a guest post for them, or tell them about some other upcoming events. If you’re not that good at writing, you can always hire a professional to do it for you or to help you with proofreading.

Make It Easy for the Media to Reach Out

Does your organization have a website or at least a blog? Does it have strong presence on social media? Hopefully, you answered yes to those questions. Then, you already have a platform for raising awareness. You can share your story there. If it gains traction, journalists will be willing to cover it and you won’t even have to bother with pitching. They will come to you.

Here’s the trick: you must make it easy for them to reach out to you.

  • You’ll do that by providing contact information on social media and at your website. This should include the contact person’s name, phone, and email address.
  • Go through your emails every single day! You don’t want to miss out on a great opportunity. Respond to all agencies that want to share your story and discuss the terms of collaboration.

Say Thank You!

If you’ve managed to convince someone from the media to publish a story about your non-profit, make sure to be grateful. A simple “thank you” can go a long way, and you never know when you may need them again.

  • A thank you email may be just enough.
  • To take things further, invite the journalist who covered your story for a cup of coffee in your offices, so you can keep the connection alive.

Further information

If you want to be published, you have to provide the media with exactly what they need. Reporters are busy people and not doing things right might cost you the coverage you need. On the other hand, if you do it well, you’ll not only get your story published, but also earn a new connection in the media, which is always very valuable.

Remember to choose the right media for your cause, and the right person inside that organization. Give them all the necessary information – and more, and remember to think outside the box. Finally, always show them how much you appreciate their help and know that it’s important to say “thank you” when someone helps you spread the word about your non-profit story.


Page last edited Aug 01, 2018 History

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