Posted by Sean Heyen

Whether you’re a nonprofit or a private business, earned media coverage can create significant awareness and credibility. Unfortunately, it takes more than a press release to get attention from the media.

Getting exposure for your nonprofit begins with marketing yourself as an expert in your field. To get started, establish a list of media contacts, such as television, radio or newspaper reporters as well as magazine editors and websites that are likely to cover your cause. Then reach out to introduce your nonprofit and describe your mission. The goal is to be at the top of these contacts’ minds when they have a story that needs the insight of an expert like you.

Developing relationships with the media doesn’t happen overnight, so you need to focus on continually nurturing these connections. One way to do this is to create a media outreach plan for an entire year. If you identify potential story ideas you can pitch to key media contacts every few months, you’ll be well on your way to building a rapport and establishing yourself as an expert who can speak on topics that are relative to your nonprofit’s mission. This may take some work, but it’s called “earned media” for a reason.

By creating ties with key media contacts, you’re keeping your nonprofit top of mind for reporters, editors, and writers. When they work on stories related to your cause, they’ll reach out to you for insight. This opportunity will also give you the chance to share your nonprofit’s mission and activities in a newsworthy story that will reach the masses.

Submitting press releases to media outlets is yet another way you can try to earn media coverage for your nonprofit. This written communication should help news media understand the story behind your event and how it can be shared with their audience using their medium. 

For example, a nonprofit organization that provides backpacks filled with food to children might say this in their press release:

A donation of $8 supplies a child’s backpack with enough food for about four nutritional family meals. A sample weekend menu may include: a bag of rice, two cans of soup, two cans of tuna and a box of cereal. In addition, vouchers for a gallon of milk, a dozen eggs and a loaf of bread are part of every backpack.

By providing details about its event, the nonprofit is able to paint a picture for the media that can easily be turned into a newsworthy story. In fact, you can see how a similar press release could lead to a news story that aired about the East Texas Food Bank.

The East Texas Food Bank received nearly 5 minutes of earned media time about their Summer BackPack Program from two news outlets. To push that media coverage further, the nonprofit shared the news stories on social media and their website. When all was said and done, the total value of their earned media was worth thousands of dollars.

Remember, despite your best efforts to engage the media, you aren’t guaranteed coverage for your nonprofit. But, you will greatly improve your changes of earned media if you maintain a consistent strategy.