Blog, Toolkit

When There’s No News: What Do Nonprofit PR People Do?

By on Monday, August 20, 2012
Thanks to Lisah and Jerry Silfwer for this
Creative Commons licensed photo.

What do you do when you don’t have any news to share with the media related to your nonprofit organization? You’ve got no upcoming events to encourage press to cover, photograph or video. There’s no breaking news stories or new reports or white papers to comment on or issue statements about. And there’s no new campaign or program to announce or tout for attention. What does a nonprofit PR professional do to drum up media attention?

First – don’t send out press releases about crap. This is not the time to send out non-newsworthy releases about someone who got an award six months ago, a generic release about your nonprofit that lacks substance, or to bug reporters with junk. Don’t ruin the good reputation you’ve spent time building.
Second – get your PR house in order. Use the extra time to get your media lists updated and organized, follow reporters you want to build relationships with on Twitter, focus on shoring up your social media outreach plans for other key audiences, and do some long-term PR planning for the rest of the year.
Spend time working with staff and volunteers at your agency to identify stories worthy of pitching that have real news hooks. Educate them about what you need to pitch a successful story, so you lay the groundwork for better news releases and information will flow to you for story pitches.
Third – plan and dream a little. A dry time is a great time to pull out your nonprofit event calendar and figure out when you need to issue news releases and media pitches for upcoming events and programs. Look at what you’ve done in the past – what would you change? What would make your nonprofit’s events more media-friendly or more likely to draw coverage?
Dream outside the box if it’s not your busy season for press engagement and think about what you would do during that busy time period to work with the media more, if you only had time. Would you pitch a few more specialized stories and not just a big kahuna release about a big event to the planet? Would you try to do more radio interviews in the buildup to a major event? Would you like to see your nonprofit featured on a morning show?
What steps would you need to take to make those dreams reality? Now is a great time to draft tool kits and press releases for your needs later in the year – plus you can plan out the Facebook posts and tweets you’ll need to go with them.
Fourth – come up with other ways to generate news in the calendar. Now that you’ve got that calendar out, start dreaming up new ways to generate news. Is there a month or week of awareness coming up related to the issue or cause that your nonprofit is working on? Now is a great time to get that on your calendar and start mapping out what you could do that month to raise awareness in your community.
Planning a community event with a photo or video opp and tools to help people deal with the issue will always generate more coverage than just a tepid statement of support. Own the issue, share how it impacts people in your community, offer tips to help people dealing with the issue, explain research/statistics or key facts about the issue clearly for the presss, and plan media pitches in advance of the month/week to raise awareness. Here’s a few calendars to help:
Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, a virtual and independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media advice, writing services, and creative design work for publications and websites (portfolio). Ami blogs frequently about media relations, social media, public relations and other issues. She also reviews books on her blog about public relations, nonprofit life, work-family balance and social media practice. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

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