1. Don’t waste reporter’s time.
Reporters are busy and they’ll love you if you don’t waste their time. Study the media outlet ahead of time to know how your news or story fits the publication. You want to know how your story will fit within their format. Newspapers have reporters who are assigned to sections. Don’t waste the time of a reporter by trying to submit a news release to the wrong reporter or the
pitch an interview to the wrong program director.
Also, lots of community newspapers will publish photos of donations being given to a charity. Know the newspaper’s policy on the size the donation needs to be to qualify for a photo.
2. Consistently send out great press releases.
Since reporters are busy you want to make their work as easy as possible. That begins with writing a great press release every time. Let’s start with the basics—the standard format for a news release. Since your news release will be competing with a deluge you do not want
to scream amateur which is the surest way to get it thrown into the waste basket without being read. Write your news releases to conform with the standard news release format.
Have someone proof your news releases before they go out. I’ve spent my career writing but I still need someone to proof my writing to catch the typos and the occasional awkward sentence. Typos make you look like an amateur and the media love to work with professionals.
3. Submit great photographs.
For better or for worse, a picture is worth a thousand words. A great photo says great things about your nonprofit and the work it does.
Likewise, one poor photo is worth a thousand poor words about your nonprofit. No photos are better than poor photos. You want every picture you use to say great things about your nonprofit and the work it does.
When I first started doing public relations for a nonprofit, I taught myself how to take a good photograph. I went to the library and checked out several books on how to design a good photo. This was before digital photography. One of the tricks I learned was to shoot lots of photos to get one good one. It was not uncommon for me to shoot three rolls of 36 shots to get one good photo.
When you are shooting the presentation of a check you can shoot several photos before your subjects become restless. Shoot as many as your subjects will tolerate. The large the group in the photo, the more shots you need to take in order to get one photo with everyone’s eyes open and to make sure an important donor or volunteer does not look like an idiot. Now with digital cameras you can review your shots immediately to make sure you have at least one good one.
When you are shooting action photos of someone at work or a conversation between staff and an individual, shoot 100 shots if you can from a variety of angles. You often need to take many shots to get one with just the right expressions. That way you’ll increase the likelihood that you’ll get that memorable photo that everyone will love.
Pay attention to the background of the photo. The background can be cluttered or it can accent the photo. Accent is better than clutter although clutter can be removed through Photoshop. With digital photography, you can crop and touch up photos. Learn to use Photoshop or similar software to touch up your photos.
When you get a newspaper to commit to doing a feature story, they may often send a photographer as well as a reporter. That’s great.
You may be able to find a volunteer photographer in your community who would love chance to build his or her portfolio by shooting for your nonprofit. Or an accomplished pro
may make an in-kind donation to the campaign by shooting photos.
Make sure each of your photos say a thousand wonderful words about your nonprofit.
4. Be organized.
Reporters will love to work with you if you always have your ducks in a row. When you arrange an interview, make sure the interviewee is on time.
When you arrange for someone who receives services from your nonprofit to be interviewed or photographed, make sure the releases are signed ahead of time.
5. Be personable.
To be a friend to reporters, you need to be more than a professional who makes their work easier. Be friendly, personable, and someone reporters enjoy working with. My colleague, Jack Domagall, was great at cracking jokes with everyone including reporters. People loved doing things for him because he was fun to be with.
Send a thank you note to a reporter after she or he has worked with you. People in the print media make their e-mail addresses available after each story they do. The e-mail addresses for radio and TV reporters are available on their websites. They are used to getting a lot of complaints. Surprise them and sent them a positive note after they’ve done a good story totally unrelated to your nonprofit.
An excerpt from Green Light Fundraising