Nonprofit PR: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly about Publicity

Getting helpful publicity for a nonprofit is a little like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

The Good: You’re a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization and the news media loves to cover nonprofits.

The Bad: There are a lot of nonprofits vying for the media’s attention and some of them are well funded, enjoy long-standing relationships with the media and are constantly fundraising.

The Ugly: It takes work, sometimes unpleasant work like cold-calling reporters, to get the media’s attention and win valuable publicity for a nonprofit.

Fortunately, with some brainstorming and a few tried-and-true tricks of the PR trade, you can get plenty of news exposure for your upcoming nonprofit events.

Here are 10 suggestions to help you:

  1. Study the competition: it’s a great way to see what other nonprofits are doing to stay in the public eye. Maybe you can employ a similar approach for your nonprofit?
  2. Make your cause larger than life: find big-picture stories to tie your cause to, like how to keep pets safe in a heat wave or arctic weather front.
  3. Invite a reporter out: invite a reporter to visit your facilities to view first-hand how you are making your sliver of the world a better place.
  4. Stay focused: don’t launch too many initiatives to gain publicity as you’ll end up distracting the media from your nonprofit’s marquee events and services.
  5. Ask for help: ask your board, volunteers and supporters/donors if they know any media professionals who might be interested in learning more about your nonprofit.
  6. Pro bono PR help: some PR firms or professionals are willing to donate some time to nonprofits in order to help a cause they support. It never hurts to ask!
  7. PSAs: public radio is a great way to get a free mention about your nonprofit and upcoming events in front of a highly affluent, well-educated, and historically-charitable, demographic in your community. Don’t overlook this easy form of publicity.
  8. Please, not another fun run: there are more 5ks, 10ks, ½ marathons than you can shake a sweaty running sock at. If you decide to do a fun run, then make it completely off-the-wall, something so unexpected that the media can’t help but chuckle at.
  9. Follow-up: media outreach is only as effective as the persistence of the person doing the outreach. Don’t pester the reporter you’re trying to sell your story to, but don’t give up that easily either.
  10. If at first you don’t succeed…: that’s right, you should never give up. The media is busy covering the news and there is more competition for a reporter’s attention than ever before. If you don’t get coverage this time around, then try again the next time around. Keep trying until you succeed.

The key is to express the passion you have for your nonprofit in a way that comes across as authentic, unique and timely.

Your time to bask in the glow of the media spotlight will come, but only after you have made it through The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

Happy Pitching!

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