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Grab the Media’s Attention: How to Stand Out

By on Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Ami Neiberger-Miller writes a column every other month for Instigate magazine, which is published by an association called Citygate, which aids and empowers religious nonprofits assisting people dealing with homelessness and addiction. These nonprofits are often under-staffed and stressed to focus on their communications needs. So I keep my columns simple and try to make it easy for readers to pick up some best practices. Here’s what I wrote in July for the September/October issue.

I did a quick Google search for “rescue mission” and I’ve been impressed with how many rescue missions are doing new things, speaking out on issues impacting people who are homeless, and working hard to earn press coverage. How do you stand out from the crowd and attract media attention? Here are a few things I observed:

Do something new. Missions are winning press because they are dedicating new buildings, sharing a property purchase with the media, starting new programs, and inviting the public to help with fundraisers.

Invite the media to tag along to your ordinary activities. One mission was involved in a program with veterinarians to care for pets for people who are experiencing homelessness. The local newspaper did a beautiful photo essay showing the pets getting their checkups with the veterinarians.

Be true to who you are and talk about your work’s intrinsic value. One of the stories I read was tragic. A mission director was asked to comment on the murders of two people near the mission. They were both people she knew and had served meals to. One of her quotes in the story was, “When you come here you are a full human and we will make sure that you feel that way. You will feel safe. You’re going to feel loved. You’re going to feel encouraged. And we’re going to drive you to the success that you deserve.” In that moment, readers knew what the mission valued and hopefully, learned to better appreciate the people it served.

Be present. One of the stories involved a mission being denied a permit for a new facility with a veto from a new mayor. A later city council vote upheld the veto (reversing a prior decision in favor of the mission) and news coverage from several outlets doesn’t include quotes  or footage from the mission staff or its supporters. The one clip I could find showing anyone from the mission showed an attorney speaking about their intentions in the past before the vote. While it’s tough to speak out when things don’t go your way, more personal voices about why this location is needed could also help sway public opinion.

Be available. Another story was about a mission buying a new piece of property, and unfortunately there’s a quote in it saying the mission director did not respond to a request for comment. Now of course, sometimes people are busy or legitimately unavailable, but this was a missed opportunity to give a nice quote. This is a great reminder to always use a number with the media that is answered 24-7, so if a call comes in, you can respond.

Offer numbers. One of the stories highlights a program serving single women, which has a new facility opening in the community. The story is full of numbers. You can find out how much the building cost, how many square feet it is, how many women can stay in it, and how many more people are experiencing homelessness in the community. I would bet all of those numbers were shared with the reporter in a news release.

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, an independent PR practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites (contact to discuss your projectreview our portfoliosign up for our e-newsletter). She blogs about media relations, social media, public relations, and work-family balance. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven

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