The charity sector has been going through a rough patch in recent months, which makes gaining great press coverage and winning funding all the more important. Oxfam and Save the Children are just two of the biggest names to have been hit by scandal so far this year, making people less trustful and more wary about donating to charitable causes both large and small.
Positive coverage can make a huge difference and help you win that much-needed support which is the lifeblood of every charitable organisations, but how do you keep your name in the media and your advertising out of the recycling box?
If you work for a charity and want to boost your press coverage, here are just a few steps you need to take.
Identify your audience
People are drawn to giving for all sorts of reasons, be they personal or political. Once you’ve identified your target audience it becomes easier to pinpoint the places you need to advertise and promote your cause – there will be relevant magazines and other publications which your target demographic are more likely to pick up, so draw up a list of publications to approach.
All charities are feeling the pinch financially, whether they’re big, national organisations or little campaigns to save a local library. Nobody has an infinite budget to throw at advertising and publicity. You will need to be very careful and selective when it comes to identifying publications worth approaching. Otherwise, you could be wasting both time and money which would be better spent elsewhere.
Make relevant contacts
Once you have a list of publications or other platforms to approach, you need to identify contacts who could help you find a way in. There’s no point pitching your charity to writers or journalists who are unlikely to take up the cause, and you may even do more harm than good if they simply start to ignore everything you send them. Break your list down into local and national publications and try to find individuals who you might be able to win over.
There are some helpful resources out there to assist you in finding relevant contacts, so check out AskCharity or PR Newswire to get networking. You could also sign up for the incredibly useful Journo Requests, to help you get in touch with lots of fantastic writers penning articles for a wide range of publications.
Write brilliant press releases
When it comes to writing attention-grabbing press releases, it’s worth remembering that human interest stories always win over facts. Of course, you need to get some facts and figures out there to give concrete proof of the good you are doing, but your audience is always going to be more interested in the stories behind the headlines. There’s a fine line to be drawn between eliciting empathy from your readers and exploiting them emotionally, but if you can strike the right balance, then you’ll win them over far more effectively than you would by just reeling off a pile of statistics.
Your charity is its own unique selling point. Keep your press releases short and sweet for maximum impact and include the main points at the top in bullet points.
Another good tip is always to try to use direct quotes whenever possible to humanise your content – all these things help you build up a rapport and relationship with your readers.
Always follow up
If you’ve invested time and money in penning press releases, making contacts and getting some publicity, it’s always worth following up your campaign to assess how successful it has been. Did you see a particular spike in interest and donations when you got publicity in one publication and very little from another? Did your contacts think the publicity was successful or could they suggest ways to improve your media profile?
Organising focus groups and getting some feedback from the people you’re hoping to target can also be extremely useful. Once you’ve heard their opinions, you will have a better idea of what you did well and where there might be room for improvement, meaning you can build on your press coverage and improve your offering next time around.
When things don’t work out as well as you would have liked, you just have to keep smiling and keep trying. The work you do is invaluable to your charity and the countless people you help, so always keep that in mind if things don’t go as planned this time around.
Gaining great press coverage is all about perseverance. It’s not what you know but who you know, so network, make some friends in high places and make sure you give your charitable organisation the approachable, human face it needs to reach a wider audience and continue the good work.
About the author: Lizzie Exton writes for Inspiring Interns, which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships.