Securing press coverage for nonprofits

Press coverage is essential for nonprofits that work tirelessly to make an impact in their communities but don’t have the media budget to showcase it. It’s free advertising! The catch is that it’s hard to get journalists’ attention. With so many stories to cover, how do you make one about your nonprofit stand out? 

Strategically target outlets

Target outlets that have covered stories related to your nonprofits issue area in the past. For example, don’t pitch a hyperlocal story to a national newspaper unless you can offer a compelling way to draw out its nationwide significance. Pitch technical stories to industry-specific publications instead of wide-reaching general news outlets. 

Identify the right reporters

Do your due diligence on the people who write at the outlet you’ve identified. Publications get so many general inquiries that you’re unlikely to get a response unless you reach out to a reporter directly. 

Most reporters have 1-2 beats, or topics, that they cover. For example, at a newspaper different journalists focus on the environment, business, housing, and local politics. Find the contact information for the person who writes about the beat your nonprofit falls under. The best way to do this is to look at the publications’ topical categories (typically found in their site navigation) and see who frequently writes under the one your pitch would fall under. 

After zeroing in on the reporter(s) to contact, check their social media profile(s) for their email(s). Reporters often also leave their direct messages open for pitches.  

Ultimately, getting press coverage is all about timing. The reporter needs to be looking for a new story at the same time that you’re proposing one. However, the benefit of pitching to reporters who write on your beat is that they’ll keep you in mind for future stories, especially if you craft a thoughtful pitch and they see you were intentional about reaching out to them because of their beat.

Craft your pitch

Once you have a story, publication, and reporters identified, it’s time to start crafting your pitch. The outline below is a common format that reporters will recognize and appreciate.

TopicThink of this as a headline. It should be 7 words or less and does not need to be a complete sentence. 
Summary2 to 4 short paragraphs written that outline the premise of the story. It should address the following questions:
What is the main takeaway? 
How is the story different from other stories that have been written in the past? 
Why is the story timely? 
What is your nonprofit’s role in the story?
ImpactWhy will readers care about this story? When writing this section, pay attention to the publication’s audience. For example, if you’re pitching to a local newspaper, how will this affect people living in the area?
PeopleWho should be interviewed for this piece, and what unique perspective will each person provide? Typically you want to offer 2-3 voices. 
When recommending people within your nonprofit, make sure they can commit to the interview before sending the pitch.
Photo PossibilitiesWe live in a visual world, so show the reporter how images will make the story come to life. Highlight the unique places you provide access to.
TimeframeWhen should the article be published and what is driving this timeline? 
When proposing a timeframe, consider how long it will take you to prepare interview subjects and how timing can be optimized to publicize an event or development.

Once you submit your pitch, give the reporter 3-5 business days to respond before following up. If possible, provide updates on new developments since the first message. This gives you a good excuse to reach back out and emphasizes the timeliness of your pitch.

Don’t be discouraged if the outlet doesn’t accept your pitch. Publications have schedules and content obligations that limit how many outside they can take on, so be sure to submit your idea to multiple outlets. If you follow the outline provided above, a pitch is sure to hit! Not to mention, the more thoughtful pitches you send, the more visibility your nonprofit has among writers and the more likely they are to reach out and give you press coverage when the time is right.