How to tell your nonprofit's story to the media

Posted by Robin Rectenwald on 10/11/17 8:00 AM

WordWrite Communications serves a variety of clients, but we also have a passion for helping local nonprofits tell their great, untold stories.  

In September, I was asked to speak to West Virginia University’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter. While I shared information about the type of work we do for our clients, I focused on how we come up with compelling story ideas for our nonprofit clients. We thought we’d share those tips for other students interested in this topic or any nonprofits looking for ways to share their stories. 

Who is the hero of the story?

Too often, nonprofits rely on telling their stories by touting all of the great work they do for the community. While it’s important to communicate your organization’s impact, it does not always need to be the focus. When thinking of ways to tell your story to the media, think of who you’re helping.

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What is their story and how are you providing support to help them achieve their goals? The media is always looking for human interest stories, especially local ones.

Who is using your services?

Similarly, nonprofits should consider getting to know the people utilizing their services or visiting their space. Who is depending on the services and how are they using them? For example, we recently pitched a story to WPXI-TV about a local teenager utilizing the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s teen space and resources to publish a literacy journal to promote the outstanding poetry, fiction and nonfiction writing of teens in Allegheny County. Check out the news story here. 

In other words, if you have people coming to your space to utilize the facilities, such as a kitchen, computer room, donation room, etc., learning more about these people and how they are using these services is another way to tell your story to the media.

What makes the program unique?

According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS), there are more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the U.S, many of which offer similar services. For this reason, nonprofits must keep in mind how its program is unique, or how it differentiates from other nonprofits.  

Take the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh for example. Every summer, the nonprofit organization invites children to Camp Soles, a traditional summer camp similar to other camps found across the nation. So, how were we able to coordinate a story with an NBC affiliate in Johnstown?  We pitched, “Camp America,” a unique program that invites third culture kids, or American children growing up in foreign countries, to experience an American tradition. With this interesting angle, we were able to catch the attention of a reporter, who did a great story!  You can view it here.

Where is the nonprofit located?

Many nonprofit organizations serve specific communities and are looking for support from that community. For this reason, pitching to community newspapers is a great way to share its story with its target audience. Take a look at this story about the Ward Home, a nonprofit that serves at-risk foster teens. Because the nonprofit is based in Scott Township, we pitched The Almanac, a weekly community newspaper serving the South Hills.

Who are the subject matter experts?

Even if a nonprofit does serve a particular community, there are still ways to get your nonprofit quoted in national publications. How? By pitching your subject matter experts as thought leaders. For instance, we recently helped Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh get quoted in a Reader’s Digest article on parenting tips.

Erin Zambataro, an early learning librarian, works with families and children on a daily basis to ensure that every child in Pittsburgh who enters Kindergarten is ready to read and succeed in school. By sharing her knowledge and expertise with a national publication, she was quoted in this article: 50 Tiny (but Powerful!) Ways You Can Encourage Your Kids Every Day.

These are just a few ways to brainstorm unique story ideas to grab the attention of the media and ultimately tell memorable stories that will attract new donors and volunteers to your organization.

Interested in learning more about how WordWrite can help your business tell it’s story, let us know by emailing Paul Furiga at paul.furiga@wordwritepr.com

Robin Rectenwald is senior account executive for WordWrite Communicatons. You can reach her at robin.rectenwald@wordwritepr.com

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Topics: media relations, story, public relations, non-profit

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