Every organization, no matter the size, should consider developing a media strategy. Beautifully landscaped Facebook pages and carefully crafted tweets are less important than unified messages and timely goals.
The following general guidelines, excerpted from our Media Toolkit for Exponent Philanthropy members, can be adopted by any nonprofit or foundation seeking to build relationships with its community and craft a powerful media strategy.
1. Identify a Purpose (“The Why”)
Every media strategy should be rooted in a specific message and sense of purpose. The public won’t respond to your call for attention if you don’t know why you’re calling them. Your campaign should be firmly targeted to both the population you want to serve and the people who can help you serve them. Scattered media strategies result in scattered goals and lackluster results. Before you initiate any campaign, make sure you know why you are doing so.
2. Tell a Story
It’s often easier for people to remember stories than it is for them to remember facts. Compelling story lines build drama and attract attention. Your strategy should be guided by the very same principles that underlie basic storytelling. Who are the characters in your organization’s story? Why are you taking the time to tell this story? What can you do to attract more listeners? Think of elements that make your organization unique and different (the story’s “voice”) and the challenges it is trying to face (the story’s “conflicts”).
3. Do Your Research
Before you launch any major campaign, know your facts. Communicate information to news sources you know will be interested in your story, and treat them with respect. Review social media networks and relevant publications to see what people are saying about your organization, the population it serves, and the issues you care about most. Examine related organizations’ strategies to make sure your approach sounds unique, specific, and purposeful.
4. Develop Relationships
Building meaningful relationships with people in your community is key to the success of any campaign. Take time to get to know the journalists and key stakeholders in your field. Follow them on social media and retweet or “like” their posts, if appropriate. Make yourself available to them, and offer outside assistance when possible. A journalist is more likely to help you with your story when you’ve helped her with hers.
5. Stay Relevant
Your organization’s message—just like your organization’s purpose—should naturally attract the people you’re trying to serve. Comb through Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites to make sure the images and quotes you’re using are relevant to your target demographic. Set up Google News alerts and subscribe to industry publications. If your organization is up-to-date, your media relations strategy should be too.
Our thanks to Patti Giglio of PSG Communications, LLC, for her contributions to A Funder’s Guide to Engaging With Members of the Media, based on two decades of experience as a journalist and media strategist.