Building a Successful Gives Day: 5 Quick Ways to Leverage the Media
- August 9, 2018
You already know that to get your giving event on the map, you need media attention. To help you get the coverage your event deserves, we’ve asked Holly McFarlin, Director of Public Relations at the East Texas Communities Foundation (responsible for the East Texas Giving Day), for her advice.
When it comes to giving events, media outlets want…
- to be in the know.
- to be the first to break the news—and sometimes the only one.
- to be compassionate and knowledgeable about community needs.
- to spread the word to maximize donations to participating nonprofits.
- to be seen as a thought leader in the community and an expert in the field.
- to be a promoter of philanthropy in the community.
To make sure your media coverage is a win/win both for media outlets and the needs of your foundation, here are the 5 rules we live by at ETCF. (Note that these are skewed towards television coverage; I’ve added a few notes on print and radio media below.)
1) Make your giving event message your mantra
Be consistent in your messaging and reach out throughout the year. Regularly provide news stations with stories, not just leading up to your giving event, but any time something newsworthy pops up where you may have a unique position, as part of the giving and nonprofit community, to know and understand. You want to stay on their radar and on the radar of your audience.
2) Start at the grassroots
Join local organizations such as your local chamber of commerce to connect with people at the grassroots level. This will allow you to network and build genuine relationships so people feel personally invested in your cause.
Whenever possible, personally invite people to not only attend your events, but to participate. Arrange for speaking opportunities so they can share their knowledge and network themselves. Show that you’re invested in their interests, not just in using them to promote your own.
3) Get personal with the media
When you have the chance to connect with news stations, we recommend focusing on building relationships with the anchor first and the producer a close second. The anchor has sway in their community because of their consistent connection and known personality. As for the producer, they have behind-the-scenes influence over what does and doesn’t get air time.
To get both personally invested, find out what they’re most passionate about and inform them about your event and how it impacts that aspect of the community. For example, if an anchor is passionate about rights for the physically disabled, share that one of the nonprofits involved in your event is raising funds to build an all-inclusive playground so kids and families of any physical ability can join in the fun. We’ve found that once anchors are invested and get involved, their passion shows, and the impact is compounded — not only in the coverage you may get, but in the way they portray the message.
4) Make a human connection with the media
Whenever possible, pitch human interest stories to make a tangible connection for viewers. Offer news outlets a choice of a couple different stories and allow them the opportunity to choose which one to cover. Provide solid visuals and share specifically how the story betters the community they serve.
For timely stories, give news outlets a heads up when you hear about an immediate need. Tie your stories in with the time of year whenever possible—in summertime, perhaps it’s the local developmentally disabled soccer league and their coach’s recent 10-year service award. Come up with fun taglines for the events and a unique angle to capture interest.
5) Get your feelers on the ground
Your nonprofit organizations are your eyes and ears in the community. Be sure to establish solid lines of communication so you’re kept abreast of events, interesting stories, and community projects. Call on these sources when you need material for news stories—nonprofits will be thrilled to have the feature.
On the flip side of that, connect with nonprofits and ask who the go-to news organizations are in their community. With a larger organization than the nonprofit itself, you’re more likely to get air time, but their on-the-ground intel will help you figure out the best place to invest your time and money.
Bonus! Tips on print and radio media for your giving event
To get the most out of media coverage, plant some seeds in print and radio as well. Print outlets usually have a specific reporter who covers the nonprofit sector. They might not be as publicly well known as TV personalities, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have sway in the community.
TV media may not pick up press releases, but local papers and radio stations appreciate them. Make your release specific to the target community, and feature nonprofits in their coverage area.
In general, include the following in your release:
- An opening paragraph with the elevator pitch of what your event is about.
- A quote from a local nonprofit to demonstrate the value of the event to the community.
- Information about the giving day, including a quote from the foundation running the event.
- A quote that directly relates to the targeted audience in that community.
- Photos of community-based nonprofits. Be sure to include information on where it was taken, the names of the subject(s), the photographer, and what the event was about — this makes their job easy and makes your story more apt to get published.
Whatever media outlet(s) you choose to focus on, remember THE GOLDEN RULES!
- Photos are more powerful than words, and videos are more powerful than photos.
- Always send personal thank you’s to the individuals who’ve helped you get covered — in person, over the phone, or in writing.
- Send attention back to your community media outlets by tagging them in social media posts and using their hashtags.
- Find multiple points of entry in any news organization: connect with anchors, producers, sales people, special interest writers, etc.
- Network like crazy!
I truly hope this helps. If you have any questions, or want to discuss your media plans, feel free to reach out to me! I truly enjoy talking to others and learning what you’re doing — and then we’re both working on #5 above!
Good luck in your mission!
~ Holly McFarlin, East Texas Communities Foundation