Observances You Can Leverage in Your Nonprofit’s PR Program

by Jan Goldstein, Senior Vice President

I always bake up a batch of soft, hot pretzels on April 26. Why? Because it’s National Pretzel Day!

Comfort foods. Important health issues. Diverse cultures. Key events in history. People who make our lives better, including teachers, nurses, volunteers, and family members. These are part of a seemingly endless list of special days, weeks, or months dedicated to raising awareness. The most important of these seek to go further; they seek to educate and spark action.

And each nonprofit has its own important milestones, including major anniversaries marking their founding, the launch of signature programs and annual events, number of sites, number of people served, and so on.

How can your nonprofit take advantage of these observances to get the word out about your mission, impact and need for support? Here are some tips:

  1. Plan ahead. You are not the only nonprofit reaching out to a group of reporters. But if you can get a reporter’s attention early, you just might be the one that’s covered. Create a year-long editorial calendar that you can use as a roadmap for media outreach.
  2. Cultivate relationships. Identifying the reporters whose articles align with your pitch. Read their stories and follow them on social media. Create a tracker to log related coverage so you can identify which pitches would likely appeal to each reporter. Start with an introductory email well in advance of the commemoration you want to leverage.
  3. Make it easy. Write a strong subject line, including the observance name and date. Don’t use all caps but do write “Story idea” as part of your subject. Write a concise pitch that tells a story that will appeal to the outlet’s readers. Provide short bullet points to add colorful details and supporting data.
  4. It’s not when, it’s why. Observances provide a timely hook, but that’s not why a reporter will respond to your pitch. Your story has to be compelling on its own for it to be picked up.
  5. Be patient. This is a stewardship opportunity. Don’t give up if you don’t secure a story with this approach. It may be a timely opportunity, but it’s not your only one. Continue to reach out to reporters whenever you have updates. Your nonprofit is worth covering and when the right opportunity comes along, the reporter will remember you.
  6. Use all your platforms. Don’t rely solely on pitching reporters. Draft a byline that you can pitch to the opinion section (be sure you check their guidelines because they differ from one outlet to the next). Be ready to tell your story on your website, on all social platforms and via email to your constituents.

It can be challenging for nonprofits without hard news to get media coverage, but if a pretzel can do it, your nonprofit can too.

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