PR can be profitable for nonprofits

KBenz_8x10_colorBy Guest blogger and speaker, Kevin Benz:

About 15 years ago I sat on a non-profit marketing workshop as a “media panelist.” I got the usual questions — how do we get media to actually read our press release? How to we get information to a reporter? Why won’t the news media come to my press conference / gala / event? They are the same questions I still get from well-meaning, passionate non-profits, start-ups and even big business.

What’s important about all of these questions is the theme they represent: “We don’t have (or we don’t want to spend) money for traditional advertising and we know there must be a way to get coverage of our awesome work.” The good news is — there is.

Here is the hard part, “earned media” may be free in terms of dollars, but it requires a commitment of time and energy. This can also be a challenge in small businesses and non-profit organizations already doing too much with not enough.

“Earned” media is called “earned” for a reason, you have to work for it, and here are the first steps you need BEFORE you start pursuing it:

  • A strong, consistent message that enhances your expertise and gets media attention.
  • A working knowledge of how the news media works and a deep respect for how hard the job is.
  • Meet and develop relationships with them
  • The willingness to answer the phone.
  • The skill to present your message in a consistent way.

All of this may seem a bit daunting, but the payoff of this work can be amazing. Imagine becoming the public, media voice for your clients and customers, imagine being the first call from a reporter looking for expertise in your area, imagine getting meaningful coverage that reaches not only your current customers and donors, but a huge pool of potential new ones.

Media coverage compares to standing center stage in a stadium full of potential donors, clients and customers and you’ve just been handed the mic.

And here’s the crazy secret, as intimidating as they might seem, the news media is looking as hard for you as you are for them. Good stories need experts and witnesses. Your job is to be that person, the go-to, the expert, the one a reporter can count on. If you can do that, your job becomes easier — reporters love to include those people who deliver, over and over again.

If you are willing to do the hard work up front — it won’t cost anything but time — the payoff can take you and your business to another level.

About Kevin Benz: Kevin Benz (@kbenztx) spent 30 years in broadcast and online journalism launching two entrepreneurial journalism efforts you might recognize — News 8 Austin (now Time Warner Cable News) and Culturemap Austin. A few years ago he launched i-media Strategies, a company dedicated to helping nonprofit organizations and businesses large and small build their public profile and promote themselves to and through the news media.

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