What Reporters Want To Hear From Nonprofits

IMG_0370It’s not always easy for a nonprofit to get the attention of the news media, let alone score valuable media coverage for their important causes, upcoming events and fundraising goals.

Still, this week at yet another PR over Coffee event here in Austin, we heard from four media professionals who all said that there are some guidelines that, if followed, can improve a nonprofit’s chances of getting in the news.

Attending the 3rd annual Nonprofit Media Panel were:
• Amy Denney, an editor for Community Impact News (@ImpactNews), one of Austin’s largest print news outlets by circulation with a strong commitment to report on news at the community level.
• Rhonda Fanning, producer of The Texas Standard (@TheTexasStandard), a brand new daily news show gearing up to launch in mid-November from KUT’s news room with plans to cover Texas-wide news culled from Public Radio news rooms from around the state.
• Amanda Tatum, host of Studio 512 (Studio512TV), Austin’s bold new daily lifestyle news show on KXAN, whose mantra is to try anything fun, exciting or even a little crazy at least once.
• Nikki Bonner, the imaginative producer of Studio 512 whose ability to create an entertaining, high velocity lifestyle news show is nothing short of amazing.

Questions from the audience came fast and furious, and the panelists were incredibly generous with their answers. What follows is list of abbreviated take-aways to give you some tips on how to approach these busy reporters and producers with your nonprofit news:

• Lead time: give the media outlet plenty of advance notice of your nonprofit’s upcoming event. The Texas Standard may need up to 2-3 weeks. Studio 512 needs closer to 1-2 months. Community Impact News is published monthly so needs 2-3 months.
• Follow-up: none of the panelists mind follow-up after an initial pitch. Sometimes pitches get lost in the shuffle between reporters and editors. A quick email can get you back on track.
• KISS: the keep-it-simple rule works wonders when pitching reporters. Avoid lengthy paragraphs, use well-organized bullets and get the Who-What-Where-When-Why across.
• Studio 512: this 30-minute show on KXAN starts at 12:30 p.m. daily, focuses on lifestyle topics and loves nonprofit causes, especially if they involve something fun and visually entertaining – like polka, parachuting, or paintball.
• Trending news: if your nonprofit can be tied to a breaking story or trending news, either local or national, then be sure to explain how it relates to the news. Respond quickly, however, as the news cycle is amazing quick and you may miss out on your chance to get picked up.
• Expert source: some of the media outlets value expert sources, which is when a spokesperson from your nonprofit is quoted as part of a larger news story. This is especially relevant to The Texas Standard, which will cover a wide variety of local, statewide, national and even international news – from a Texas perspective.
• The Texas Standard: slated to launch in November, this news program can potentially turn around a story in the same day as long as you call or email the newsroom before 10am and it’s breaking news or ties to breaking news – e.g., a doctor speaks about the surprise case of Ebola in Dallas.
• Community Impact News: close to 10 years now, this print monthly has been covering the community like nobody’s business. Impact News has a lot of different ways nonprofits can get word out about their upcoming events. Go to the Impact News website and search for the edition in which your nonprofit operates (e.g., northwest Austin, Georgetown, central Austin) and click the calendar to add your event. It will be added online and in print as long as you do it 2-3 months beforehand.
• Press releases: contrary to popular opinion, press releases are not dead, but they clearly prefer a well-organized email pitch that gives them the overall hook so they can decide whether or not to pursue your story.
• All of them also post their stories on the Internet, with except of The Texas Standard as the website is still being built.
• All of them prefer email pitches to phone calls.
• Customize your pitch to each in order to answer: “Why is this important to their audience?”
• You can pitch multiple people inside their respective organizations.
• You can pitch multiple news outlets as they all believe they can pull what they need from the news pitch and add their special take on it.
• If you have a press release, paste it in the body of the email pitch, after the signature line.
• The Texas Standard: the host is David Brown, former host of Marketplace on NPR, likes gadgets, technology, Teslas and music of all kinds.
• Pictures: you can send pictures but if you use an smartphone then take a landscape (horizontal) picture as it tends to work better with TV and web formatting.

I’m sure there is a lot more I am forgetting but this should give you a few ideas on how to approach these Austin media outlets, and even ones in other communities, with news about your nonprofit.

Happy Pitching!

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded an Austin PR agency for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009. Dave Manzer is one of the only agencies in the country specializing in technology, healthcare and energy PR to provide blended performance-based pricing. To contact Dave directly, please email him at dave(@)davemanzer.com.

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