How to Prepare to Build Relationships with the Media

The media can play an essential role in creating exposure for your nonprofit organization. Even though you may be operating with limited resources and staff, you can prepare to build relationships with media outlets for your organization on your own. First, you need to have the following items in place:


Create a Target Media List

Identify media outlets that make sense to see your organization represented in, including magazines, radio, podcasts websites/blogs, industry/association publications, television, and newspapers. Ask yourself, “Who/what is my audience tuning in to for information?”


Thoroughly invest time in researching the media outlets you identify. It’s essential to know what the outlets are specifically covering and who writes what kinds of articles. After you create the list, be sure to regularly read/listen to the media you are targeting for coverage. This will help you understand the media outlet’s tone, focus, and delivery method and recognize any themes that the outlet and reporter you are targeting follow; all of which are critical.


Building a spreadsheet of the media outlets you’d like to include with ALL the relevant information will help you quickly find information and make changes when needed. Be sure to include:

  • Media outlet name
  • Reporter contact name
  • Reporter contact email
  • Reporter contact phone number
  • Media outlet publication frequency
  • Media outlet deadline information
  • Link to publication
  • Relevant notes, such as preferred contact method, interests, and results of interactions


Identify Key Messages

President and co-founder of Prosper Strategies, Alyssa Conrardy, says, “Key messages are the main points you want your stakeholders to hear, understand and remember about your organization.”


Key messages are essential in delivering clear communications about who your organization is and what it does. These succinct soundbites are not just for the media but for all your audiences, including donors. Conrardy breaks down how to create “master” key messages in this article. Responding to the media or actively seeking coverage without this critical work completed can result in inaccurate or inconsistent media coverage and confusion.


Identify and Prepare Spokespeople

You also need to note those in your organization that can speak to your mission and services. Be sure that these representatives are willing and able to talk to the media before you list them.


Hosting media training with a volunteer or fee-based media expert is ideal to ensure your spokespeople feel prepared to answer questions and are well-versed in using your organization’s key messages. If you don’t have the budget or contacts for media training, this post offers great advice on quickly preparing for interviews.


Remember, when you get to the point of pitching reporters your story, be sure these spokespeople are available and accessible to respond to a request. The more responsive you are, the more likely media contacts will look to your organization for comment when future stories arise.


Know Your Organization’s Numbers

To illustrate your organization’s impact, you need to know your numbers. Be sure you are tracking data that your spokespeople can readily point to and that showcase:

  • Why those you serve need your services
  • How many you serve monthly, yearly
  • How your organization is supporting them
  • How your services provide a lasting impact - six months, 12 months, 24 months, out


Sharing accurate numbers help illustrate your organization’s overall impact in the community and supports the storytelling that news outlets are seeking. You should also be prepared to respond to the request for a success story from your organization and have permission from those served before sharing any information.


It also helps to have other relevant background information prepared ahead of time. A one-page factsheet about your mission and founding, information about your organization’s leadership, and details about the current, relevant activity are items worth preparing.


Time to Strategize

Once you have prepared all the items above, you are ready to begin designing your media plans. While this process can seem intimidating, it’s an important strategy to amplify your organization’s message, help grow awareness, and provide third-party credibility.


Stay tuned for future blogs with more information about how your organization can work with the media.


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About Rachel M. Decker

Having spent nearly 20 years in the nonprofit sector as an effective and strategic fundraising and foundation executive, Detroit Philanthropy Founder and President, Rachel Decker is passionate about helping others, making meaningful connections, solving problems and, most importantly, creating impact in our community. With the founding of Detroit Philanthropy, she turned that passion into a commitment to champion philanthropy throughout metro Detroit as a philanthropic advisor, fundraising consultant and speaker.

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