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media pitchThe media has the power to spread your message far and wide but to tap into that power, you need to catch their attention.

One of the ways to do that is to pitch a story to them, and there’s more to that than simply shooting off an email.

If your NFP wants to harness the power of the media, take a look at these tips on how to create an attention grabbing media pitch.

  1. Think about your message or story.  Will it appeal to the general public?  If the answer is no, don’t bother making the pitch.  Journalists are only interested in newsworthy stories.
  2. Which section of the general public will be interested in what you have to say?  The more specific you can be, the better picture you will have regarding the TV programs they watch or the magazines they read.  Immediately you know which journalists or editors you need to pitch to.
  3. Be topical.  If your story is strong it will stand on its own.  If it is not, try to tie it in with a story which is currently grabbing media attention.  For example, if your NFP supports a children’s sports team and the media is currently full of childhood obesity stories, you can build on those and angle your story to catch the attention of the same journalists.
  4. Now you have your angle, back it up with the real stories of your people.  Case studies, true tales and comments “from the field” all add real weight to your pitch.  Remember that the journalist will be looking for an interesting story to share.  Give it to her.

By putting some thought and effort into your media pitch. you give yourself a better chance of achieving the results you want.

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Article by Belinda Collins.  First pubished in  Third Sector Magazine.

Belinda Collins headed World Vision’s Media and Public Relations team through the Boxing Day tsunami period, raising $80 million in fourteen days and managing the World Cup Asia Tsunami Cricket match. Her step-by-step guide will give you the basic tools you need to be successful in approaching the media.

1. Know your objectives

Why do you want to pursue media coverage? Some common reasons are to:

* Increase ‘brand’ awareness of your organisation among potential funders and/or members. * Promote a fundraising campaign. * Promote as ‘employer of choice’. * Promote critical research findings. * Advocate for your client group. * Position as ‘thought leader’. demonstrate outcomes to funders (particularly important for Government funding).

2. What media does your audience consume

If your objective is to encourage donations and your donors are mainly women aged 35-50 then you need to find the right media to reach this audience – perhaps pursue an article in a woman’s magazine (note lead times for monthly magazines can be five months).

The same logic regarding audience should be applied to other objectives.

3. Compile a list of all relevant media

There are around 40,000 media outlets in Australia, from television news programs to fishing magazines, to radio programs on gardening and niche, special interest newsletters. This is great news for the third sector as media outlets are always on the hunt for new and interesting content and our sector has great stories to tell.

Read, watch and listen to as much media as you can in an effort to identify relevant media for you.

When I’m promoting national fundraising campaigns I’ve had great success with segments as diverse as: Mike Larkin’s weather report, Kerri-Anne Kennerly’s ‘Wheel’, Ready Steady Cook, Good Morning Australia, ABC Conversation Hour, BTN (Youth News), Totally Wild, CEOs and celebrity ambassadors profiled in major newspapers, and stories in New Idea, Cosmo and Women’s Weekly.

Media Monitors, Margaret Gee’s Media Guide, or AAP can help you identify relevant media and more specifically, relevant journalists and editors.

4. Search for a story

The chase for media coverage is a competitive race. To be successful, you have to know how to create stories of interest to your target media. Consider:

* New research findings that affect the media’s audience. * The use of ‘days’ e.g. International Children’s Day. * Being the biggest/best or first to make a significant achievement. * An inspiring story a celebrity ambassador. * Significant birthday or milestone e.g. 100 years of service, 1 millionth donor. * Including a quirky, professional photograph to accompany your story.

5. Prepare a killer media release

Whenever you contact the media you’ll need a media release that summarises your story. It’s best to stick to these tips:

* Keep it about a page long. * Display a phone number that’s contactable 24/7. * Be factual, honest and concise. * Create a heading that summarises your story.

Your first paragraph should detail:

* What the story is about. * Who is involved. * Why it is happening. * What they are doing. * When it is happening.

Subsequent paragraphs expand on this information and introduce interesting spokespeople, who are available for interview.

6. Getting your story to the media

There are two ways you can do this:

The conventional way is to fax/email the release yourself, or through Media Monitors or AAP. The downside of this is competition. Some outlets receive hundreds of releases a day. If you do need to distribute a media release widely, make follow up calls to ensure your release has been received and seen – and use this as another chance to sell your story.

Alternatively, consider some of these strategies I’ve used to great effect over the years:

* Build relationships with relevant journalists by writing to them and congratulating them for reporting on ‘like’ topics. * Ask if you can take a journalist to coffee to introduce yourself and your organisation. * Offer your services to help journalists research topics of expertise to you. I once worked for a child welfare organisation who published a lot of research on children’s issues. We also had a lot of families prepared to talk to the media. By extending this offer to relevant journalists, we were often quoted in the papers. * Use the quiet period over December and January to build relationships. PR people are generally on leave over this time and it’s easier to make yourself heard! * If radio is relevant for you, ask your local ABC station if you can come and watch a program being put to air. You’ll learn how they prioritise stories and build vital relationships with producers.

7. Work with the journalist to finalise the story

Once you have interest, there can be a lot of work in pulling the story together.

* Keep your media release with you at all times, as well as any facts and statistics you’ve quoted. * Make sure your spokespeople are available and properly briefed. * Always attend interviews with your spokespeople. * You may also need to work with photographers to co-ordinate any footage or images required.

8. Prepare for publication

It’s the small things you do from here that determine how well this coverage will help achieve your objectives. It’s important to:

* Brief your receptionist so they know how to answer any calls. * If you are promoting a fundraising campaign – make sure your call centre is staffed to deal with calls at the right time. * Get copies of the article, or ask Media Monitors to record any tv or radio coverage. * Send copies to relevant stakeholders/funders.

Belinda Collins is an independent consultant undertaking strategic projects, brokering relationships and raising funds for charitable and sporting organisations. She has previously worked with the Australian Football League, Richmond, Essendon and Adelaide Football Clubs and the University of Melbourne.

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Not-For-Profit (NFP) organisations need to promote their business in order to continuously attract new members, volunteers, funding and recognition to the cause. But what low cost options are there available to NFP organisations?

Firstly look at the talent already operating within your organisation from your board members through to your staff and volunteers. Is there anyone who could assist with your marketing efforts either from their own perspective or through their networking connections? Some of them may be connected with local businesses that could help with your fundraising promotions either indirectly by offering their support or directly by giving money to your cause.

When advertising it is important to look at all forms including media promotion, online advertising and direct meetings with the public. When you are sourcing advertising options, do not be afraid to negotiate the price. Also try writing your own media releases and send them directly to media outlets to gain free promotional coverage. Make sure the articles are written from a newsworthy perspective and worth publishing. Posting press releases online will also enable information to circulate free of charge possibly gaining more print promotion possibilities.

Join online media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and link back to your press releases. By setting up your own profile pages and promoting your stories and achievements, you will gain followers thus creating new promotional possibilities.

Face to face networking however is still equally important. Look around to see what community expos and events are operating in your area. You can, for a small cost, set up a table or booth in order to pass out information about your organisation and how people can best assist you. Ask that current volunteers and donors also attend as positive experiences and word of mouth are the best free advertising methods your organisation can tap into.

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Bil and RoryAs well as jumping against the glass doors Bil also loved balancing on her hind legs, particularly when she was excited. When the potential for food was involved she combined her ability to stand on her hind legs with a clapping hands/paws action. It wasn’t something we taught her and we never managed to relate the skill to a trick on command but this ability drew much attention to herself because we found it very entertaining. Naturally it resulted in her scoring treats as we attempted to convert the skill into a trick on command. She won the hearts of many a visitor with this ability too. 

In business, the ability to draw attention to your business is marketing and public relations. Those in business who are able to draw attention to the product or service they offer will succeed beyond those who hide their light under a bushel. My son recently gave me Richard Branson’s autobiography for my birthday. To not know who Richard Branson is you would have to be living in a monastery. He and his businesses being so well known and successful is testimony to the importance he places on drawing attention to his cause. He says in his book that he recognised early on how important it was for his activities to draw attention to the Virgin cause.

 

Although she wasn’t educated in marketing and public relations, Bil won many hearts with her activities and was very good at drawing attention to herself. A good lesson for all of us in business and also for community organisations.  A good resource for community organisations is the book Media on a Shoestring (Media Tactics for Community Organisations) by Annie O’Rourke from Media Team Australia. It is a book full of practical information that will enable community organisations to use their limited resources wisely and attract the media attention their organisation or issue deserves. Well worth a look if you can get your hands on a copy.
 

 Here’s to volunteer treasurers.. 

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