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.