6 story-sharing tips for not-for-profit communicators

by | Apr 26, 2016 | Branding, Media Relations, Public Relations

Today’s not-for-profit communicators need to rethink the way they share their message. The days of sending out a press release to a mass email list with donations received or information on their annual gala are long gone.

Those sharing non-profit industry news should speak directly to those they really need to reach, whether they’re journalists, potential donors, or activists and influencers. But reaching these key people needs an entirely different approach.

Here are six ways to share your story and bring attention to your cause and organization:

1. Determine your audience. Sending the same message to everyone on your list is not the best way to get results. Take some time and determine whom you really need to reach with your message, then cater your approach to these individuals or groups.

Start by determining your target audience and the best way to reach out to them. For example, if you want to get the younger generation volunteering, this might mean investing more time and creativity into your social media strategy. At the same time, reaching those who can make big donations might require a completely different approach. You need to think outside the box, do some research, and engage key bloggers and other influencers who are reaching your audience.

2. Become an influencer. It may take some time, but putting a name and a face to your organization or cause can be the best way to obtain the kind of buzz you need. Come up with a go-to person for media requests. Having your talking head quoted in a story can provide you with some great leverage when reaching out to others about your organization. The more your spokesperson is quoted, the more likely it is that a journalist will come to you when they need a resource for future stories.

3. Build and nurture relationships with media. Determine which journalists write about your industry most often and then reach out to them. Don’t just copy them and many others on a blanket press release or email — get personal! See if you can take them for a coffee or get on the phone and determine what they’re looking to include in their stories. Once you’ve started this relationship, nurture it. This means staying in touch, reaching out to them directly, and catering your pitch to their specific needs. When you have them engaged, believe me, they’ll reach out to you when they need a quote.

4. Show everyone what happens behind the scenes. Telling a story is always the best way to engage a journalist and, ultimately, the general public. Introduce them to someone who is benefiting from your efforts so they can help share your story. Remember, people love a good story — especially if it comes from the heart. Use social media to amplify your efforts and even pull out your smarthone and shoot some live video via Periscope. If your organization is not people based, then show them how you manufacture that important medical discovery or tool that saves lives (…you get the idea).

5. Share the results of your efforts. This is where the human element is very effective. Your communications department is not your only resource when it comes to sharing your message. Getting supporters and partners involved can be the best way to spread your word. Make it easy for them to share the news via social media and blogs. Having your story told in mainstream media is certainly very valuable, but take that one step further and get your supporters to also become your storytellers. People love a human-interest story, and potential donors want to know about the difference they’re making in the lives of others when they write that check.

6. Enter to win an industry award. There are many awards programs out there for the not-for-profit industry. If you have a great campaign, new website, well-read blog, or have gained some great results in your social media strategy, then you have some news to share. Entering and winning an award for your not-for-profit communications efforts gives you one more reason to reach out to media and update them on your latest success. These programs generally have many categories in which to enter, and there will likely be one or more that will work for your organization or cause. Often, the awards program will also have some great media outreach and, if you win, will make a concerted effort to share that news with their large audiences. It’s a great way to get a big bang for your marketing buck!

Whitney Zelmer
Whitney Zelmer is a content marketer and events coordinator. In her free time, she is an encaustic/mixed media artist.