JamesProfile1TwitterBy James D’Ambrosio

Many nonprofits know the value of telling compelling stories demonstrating the positive impact their cause or mission has on the population(s) served. While this can be done through social media — YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.  —you’ll still want third-party media outlets to increase your exposure. Since many small agencies can’t afford a full-time public relations staffer, and changes in journalism resulting in fewer reporters and  publications, it’s important to approach media strategically.


The following approach can increase your chances of placing stories in print and electronic media and building stronger ties with reporters and editors:

1) TARGET SELECT MEDIA: Good media relations begins with selecting appropriate outlets. Research local and regional outlets to see what types of stories are covered and areas served. Once you’ve identified prospects, get details — deadlines, names of reporters/editors, contact information, etc. Create a one-page spreadsheet or Word document with all data for easy access. 

2) DEVELOP RELATIONSHIPS: Placing stories consistently requires building good relationships with reporters. Find out which reporter(s) cover your topic area and call them. Introduce yourself and your agency, emphasize you can be a good source of news for their readers/viewers, and invite them to visit your Web site. Also determine their preference for receiving news releases — fax, e-mail attachment, the body of an e-mail — and their deadlines.

3) UNDERSTAND HOW REPORTERS WORK: Reporters are often swamped with stacks of news releases. While you believe your story is important, good reporters, when deciding on potential news, adhere to journalistic standards: a) Would it interest readers or viewers? b) Is it new, different, or unique in some way? c) Did we report on a similar item recently? d) Are good visuals available? e) Is it timely — can it be connected with a larger issue currently in the news? Knowing this, you can better understand why your story may not have received coverage. 

4) MAKING THE PITCH: Armed with this information, send your news release 3-5 days before an event or print deadline. Follow up a few days later with a brief call explaining why you believe the story has news value to readers or viewers and request coverage. Demonstrating you understand their needs establishes you as a credible source. Contrary to what some may believe, obtaining coverage isn’t about the great things you do. Rather, it’s about meeting reporters’ needs for credible, newsworthy information on deadline.

5) DON’T COMPLAIN: If you don’t receive coverage, don’t complain. This is a sure-fire way to lose the respect of reporters. If you want free publicity (who doesn’t?) you have to work on the media’s terms. Continue submitting story ideas in a professional manner — respecting reporters’ constraints —and you’ll get your share of publicity. In fact, reporters may eventually seek you out when they need information on a topic your organization deals with.


Good media relations often comes down to this: Providing the right information to the right reporter at the right outlet at the right time in the right way. Do this and, generally, you’ll better your chances for coverage. 



A) What has been your experience dealing with today’s media?

B) What other strategies or tactics have you found successful?


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