Create PR Buzz with Tips to Showcase Your Impact
Nonprofit public relations is one of the most rewarding things we do. We’ve been the PR consultant to dozens of Chicago-based charitable organizations, and I find most led by passionate problem solvers. Many nonprofit leaders left corporate America to pursue passions beyond the bottom line or the next earnings report.
Plus nonprofits are founded to solve societies’ problems, and reporters are always looking for innovative, fresh approaches to address what seems like a never-ending stream of crises.
How do nonprofits get media coverage? How can nonprofits get in the news and increase awareness by making full use of their precious time and slim PR budgets?
Here are some nonprofit publicity tips, based on my decades of experience using creative storytelling as a Chicago PR firm owner, a former government communicator, and radio news reporter who’s covered many nonprofits.
Set Goals and Be Realistic
Many nonprofit marketing departments operate on a shoestring and with volunteer support. So be sure your goals are realistic. Ask these questions.
Who do I want to reach?
Men, women, minorities old, young, liberals, conservatives, wealthy, poor, or business professionals from specific industries? You probably don’t want to reach all of these groups. So choose wisely and pick the audience type that’s most likely to support your mission.
How will you reach them?
Through news stories in traditional media outlets? Through niche online outlets? Through social media? On TV or Radio? Once you decide where you’ll focus your efforts, you’ll rely on research to find the reporters who cover your space and then find the best ways to contact them.
What is the message your priority media need to hear?
Your message will depend on the news you’re making and the trending topics that are going on in the news. For example, during the last two years of the pandemic, racial unrest, political upheaval and economic uncertainty, charitable organizations have had a lot to share about the lives of clients they serve and how they are helping those clients.
So for my clients, I’ve reached out to reporters to share problems and solutions related to remote learning, pivoting during the pandemic, lack of wifi-connected homes, teacher burnout, grief, job loss, staffing shortages, food insecurity, youth mental health, and gun violence.
Of course, your answers should always refer to your mission — your reason for being — and always framed in the context of what’s happening in the world right now.
Just remember, it’s your job to focus on the one priority your nonprofit is succeeding at, and develop a message to help reporters understand your impact.
How do you write messages that convey that impact?
By talking to your staff and asking them for their best examples of your work in action.
Bring those stories to life with the most conversational and down-to-earth narrative possible. Avoid all jargon and acronyms. Use simple nouns and verbs. I tell clients a good message is one their mom or grandma will easily grasp! If they don’t get it, you need to work on simplifying!
Your impact story should be loaded with color and detail.
It’s a simple formula for a great narrative: Spell out the problem. Describe your approach to the problem. Use the client success story to bring the solution to life.
Here are a few examples of nonprofit news coverage we’ve landed lately.
- This recent Washington Post report profiled an ambitious Black entrepreneur who pivoted her restaurant business during the pandemic and offered dockside delivery of food and supplies at Chicago’s lakefront harbors — the only public space where people were gathering. She grew her business and now she’s working on franchising it, thanks to our nonprofit client.
- NBC Nightly News picked up her story the next day!
- CBS2 Chicago reported on this nonprofit client which launched a drive-up food pantry in a South Side Chicago neighborhood known as a food desert.
- ABC7 Chicago reported on our education nonprofit’s efforts to support students so they graduate high school came to life with this story of a seventh grader who failed math and avoided class. She was transformed by a committed staffer, “Now my teacher calls me ‘My Math Wizard,” she told a reporter!
- Crain’s Chicago Business showcased expertise from our client, a mental health expert, on how to spot employees facing mental health crises.
After we helped craft the narrative, we worked with each of these clients to develop their messages. Many stakeholders were not comfortable being interviewed. So we fully prepared them and helped put them at ease by conducting mock interviews to provide direct and succinct answers that also injected their own personality into the conversations.
Seeing these stories on the air, online or in print, is one of the most effective ways to shine a giant media spotlight on the work of your nonprofit. Plus, the content you create lives forever online, and can be used again and again with key donors, board members, and prospective volunteers and partners.
If you’d like to learn more about how to create impactful news coverage for your nonprofit, just give me a call or shoot me an email. I’m happy to help.