Posted by Jayne Huddleston on April 18, 2009
Some organizations send notes, e-mails, or the like, to a journalist after they cover a special event or the organization’s activities. Often, they thank them for their “support”. This is one of the common mistakes that comes from not understanding the media’s role and how they work.
A journalist’s job is not to “support” anything. When they cover your event or activities, they are not “supporting” you or your organization. Their job is to tell stories that are of public interest, that inform and entertain. Their goal is to tell stories that they feel will interest their readers or viewers. If that story turns out to be in your favour, that is good for you and your organization. It has probably resulted, in some way, from a good media relations campaign. Either you have simply developed a positive relationship with the media or you have offered them a great story idea.
To say you shouldn’t thank them for their support doesn’t mean you can’t be polite in showing that you are pleased with their work. Thank them for coming out to your event. Tell them you loved their article. Write a letter to the editor, so your praise can be published. Just don’t show your lack of media-savvy knowledge by calling what they do “support”.
Posted in 1 | Tagged: media-savvy, support from media, understanding media | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Jayne Huddleston on March 28, 2009
Back in May I posted about how many non-profit organizations miss a “newspeg” and, hence, miss a great publicity opportunity.
A newspeg is a story that is in the news already. It is usually big news and getting lots of coverage. If you can make a link between your cause and that story, you have an opportunity to “piggyback” on the existing story.
A newspeg must be acted upon quickly. “Think First Canada”, a Toronto-based organization that promotes the use of helmets in sport did just that this week. A large story appeared in the Toronto Star promoting the efforts of two neurosurgeons who are advocates for helmet use. The “hook” for the story was the recent death of actress Natasha Richardson following a seemingly harmless bump on the head while skiing.
Success with newspegs takes a sharp eye that follows news at all levels — local, national and international. It also requires a creative mind to see the “hook” in a story that can piggyback on the larger story. Then, it requires the ability to get that story into the hands of the right reporter. Combining those skills can net a non-profit some of the best publicity possible.
Posted in Non-Profit Organizations | Tagged: finding a hook, newspeg, pitching stories | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Jayne Huddleston on March 1, 2009
In these economic times, it is increasingly harder for non-profit organizations to raise funds. Whether it is through private donations or corporate sponsorships, money is tough to come by. That is true even for the most worthy causes.
A down economy also means certain parts of any organization may be cut. Often a press officer is seen as a less-than-necessary luxury. But, remember that people are less likely to give money to something they’ve never heard of, or that they hear very little about.
Organizations that have had an aggressive marketing and publicity campaign leading up to a recession, can afford to lighten up on those activities in tough times. A long run of high visibility can last in people’s minds and get you through a bad economy. But, if you’ve been lying low without a strong publicity campaign, you are likely to be hit hardest by the recession.
Donors and sponsors have confidence in something they hear about, read about, and see on television. Coming up with great stories about your organization or its cause, and sharing them with the media, is a powerful way to create donor confidence.
There is a lesson to be learned from the inevitable ups and downs of the economy. Don’t wait until times are bad to create donor confidence. Make sure your publicity campaign is working in the good times, in case you can’t afford one in the bad times. The donor confidence you will build might just get you through the bad times.
Posted in 1 | Tagged: corporate sponsorship, donations, donor confidence, on-going publicity campaign, sponsorship | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Jayne Huddleston on January 13, 2009
Many health charities have a particular month each year that is “awareness month” for their cause. They can be a great opportunity for fund-raising and special events. But, the best time to pitch stories to the media is, simply, when you have great story. Journalists love to receive great story ideas, especially from someone who can supply great facts and figures and connect them with experts for interviews.
Too often, I see charitable organizations bombard media outlets during their “awareness month”. They beg and plead with them to do a story about a very broad subject. Subjects that are too broad usually don’t result in a great story that gets reader attention. If you are on the look-out for great stories all year, they probably won’t happen during your “awareness month”.
Let’s suppose January is your awareness month. You bombard every media outlet in your area to do a story about your cause that month. Then on February 2 a great story breaks that is connected with your cause. It may be that a famous person is affected by it. It may be a scientific breakthrough. These are called “news-pegs”. They are a great way to link your cause to something to which people are interested and paying attention. They are also a good way to establish your organization as the “go-to” source for information in your area of specialty.
However, if you have been bombarding journalists with a weak story idea throughout January, how likely are they to listen to your great story idea on February 2?
Posted in 1 | Tagged: awareness month, news peg | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Jayne Huddleston on December 15, 2008
When I talk to non-profit organizations about publicity, the response is often, “Well we have a PSA”. A PSA is a Public Service Announcement and it is not equivalent to publicity. Publicity is part of an overall marketing or public awareness campaign. But all parts are not equal.
PSAs are like advertising, but they are distributed to media outlets to be broadcast or printed free. The degree of exposure they get depends on the media outlets, your geographic region and your cause. However, it is a fairly common practice to slot them in spots where the advertising space or time could not be sold. They become a “filler”. Often, this means they don’t get good time slots on television or good placement in publications.
On the other hand, some PSA campaigns are very successful. But, even the most successful are not equivalent to publicity. The key difference is the same as the difference between advertising and publicity. Whether you pay for the space or time, or get it for free, it is still an advertisement.
Objectivity is the big difference between advertising and publicity. Advertising is YOUR message. The message in an article or a television feature is created by a third party, from his or her viewpoint. Therefore, it is more believable to consumers. What do you believe more when you read a magazine — the articles or the advertisements? A good piece of journalism is balanced, meaning it shows at least two viewpoints on the issue. An advertisement shows only that of the organization that created it.
Publicity can also be as cost-effective or more so. While the time or space in which your PSA appears is donated, PSAs can be expensive to make. Graphic artists and video producers are not cheap. Training your staff and volunteers to work with the media is a one-time cost. However, it can create an on-going stream of new and varied publicity.
PSAs can be a very useful tool. But they do not replace publicity.
Posted in Non-Profit Organizations | Tagged: marketing plan, media relations, media training, PSA, public awareness, public service announcements, publicity vs. advertising | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Jayne Huddleston on November 2, 2008
I once had a conversation with the Executive Director of an association for a much under-publicized health disorder. He had difficulty grasping the benefits of a media relations campaign. I asked him if he had an interest in an obscure hobby. He scoffed and said “no, I have no interest in that”. Then I threw out the name of someone who has considerable notoriety within that obscure hobby. I asked the Executive Director if he had heard of that person. His reply? “Of course, everyone has”.
I followed by asking him why he had heard of someone who is the best in a field in which he professes to have no interest. When he said he had read about him in the newspapers, I asked why he thought newspapers covered such an obscure activity. “Because, that guy’s so good”, he replied. But how would they know about someone who is good at an obscure, little-known activity? The answer is simple. Most stories are driven by someone or some organization. Journalists don’t simply stumble upon them. And journalists need fresh stories every day.
If your organization is doing good work, don’t keep it to yourself. Learn how to recognize a good human interest story. You’ll probably find your organization is littered with them. Don’t keep your work or your people a secret. Once you get started, keep it up with a planned campaign. Your fundraising and ability to get grants is likely to get a lot easier. Your membership may even rise.
Posted in Non-Profit Organizations | Tagged: finding stories, media relations campaign | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Jayne Huddleston on May 18, 2008
Sometimes when national or international news breaks, it shares something in common with a cause or issue that is represented by a non-profit organization. These situations present excellent opportunities to reach the public with important information. In the news business, this is called a “newspeg”. It means you can link something that is in the news to a possible feature story. Or, it can mean that the news story opens a door for you to share your message while linking it to the news story.
These opportunities are often lost simply because non-profit organizations don’t have a plan in place to cover who will act and what they will do to take advantage of a newspeg.
A good example is the unfortunate seizure suffered yestereday by U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy. I have worked with non-profit organizations whose mandate includes public education about seizures. However, I have watched U.S. networks grapple in recent days for appropriate expert analysts to explain how the Senator might have shown stroke-like symptoms, but actually had a seizure. While I currently work with a regional association in Canada, it would be inappropriate for that organization to offer assistance with information to U.S. television networks
As is so often the case, no spokesperson from an appropriate organization that represents seizure disorders appears to have capitalized on this opportunity. Seizures are a grossly misunderstood condition and Senator Kennedy’s misfortune is a missed opportunity to change that.
If your non-profit organization represents a cause or an issue that might make the news, make an action plan before it happens. Plan ahead of time who will be your spokesperson. Make sure they are equipped with current information. Have a list of expert sources. Get permission in advance from those sources to give their contact information to the media. Analyze the types of newspegs that might arise within your subject area. Be ready when opportunity strikes.
Posted in Non-Profit Organizations | Tagged: breaking news, epilepsy, epilepsy associations, newspeg, seizure disorder associations, seizures | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Jayne Huddleston on May 13, 2008
When you see an opportunity to get publicity for the charity, cause, health condition, or activity that your non-profit organization represents, know how to narrow the focus. Never ask a journalist to do a story on a very broad subject. If you don’t narrow the focus of it, they won’t know how. A good journalist would be able to find out how, but wouldn’t have the time to do the necessary research. If you don’t give them a specific focus, you won’t like the outcome, nor will the journalist. Readers and viewers won’t benefit from the information. And, it can hurt your chances of getting future coverage.
I’ve often seen it happen that organizations ask a journalist to do a story about a particular health condition. That is usually a very broad subject. Instead, narrow it down to the incidence of the condition, the risk factors, the treatments, new research or a particular individual afflicted with it. Then do your research. Do you have the facts and figures to develop a story in the more narrow subject area? Who will make a good interview? What is particularly interesting about the afflicted individual?
The same is true of organizations that govern an activity. As a hypothetical example, don’t ask a media outlet to do a story about bowling. Instead, take them some interesting information about the number of Canadians who bowl, or an increase in bowling participants, or the sport of bowling making a bid to get into the Olympics.
This is part of finding the hook that makes a story. It’s part of thinking like a journalist before you approach one. I’ve seen organizations successfully pitch stories about very broad topics. That is, if you consider just getting story published or broadcast, to be success. Then they get very excited because a story is going to be done on their subject. In the end, usually, neither party is happy with the outcome.
Posted in Non-Profit Organizations | Tagged: find the hook, non-profit publicity, pitch a story | Leave a Comment »