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Your organization’s email list can only take your message so far. To continue to grow the reach of your organization, you’ll have to get the word out to new people and places and build media relations for your group.

Traditional media outlets can be an invaluable friend to non-profit organizations, exposing your cause to thousands of people who may otherwise not hear about it. Following are a few tips to develop solid relations with media like newspapers, TV stations and radio stations.

1. Get information first

Sure, you can just jump in and start making calls, but why not get some information first? Pick a handful of local media outlets and sign up for their publications, emails, newsletters, follow them on Twitter, like their Facebook pages, read their blogs and so on.

You’ll get a feel for their communication style and their audience and you might also be able to identify the right reporter or news editor to contact that way. You can take care of this first step of getting information long before you’re ready to announce your event.

build media relations - news microphone

2. Reach out to build media relations

Unless the news outlet already has plans to run a story on your cause, they probably aren’t going to come knocking on your door. Take the first step and introduce yourself and your organization to a local newspaper or TV station. All it takes is a simple email to a reporter or news editor explaining your cause and mission. Be sure to find out about their submission schedule, so you’ll know how far in advance you’re supposed to send info about events.

3. Create a strategy for events, awards, and other newsworthy items

If you want to get covered by local media, you will need an organized approach. Build a media list to keep track of who at the news outlet you want to contact, as well as any appropriate information like their title, phone number, email.

4. Send media alert or press release

If you have an upcoming event, create and send a media alert to the appropriate contacts according to their schedule (usually about seven to ten days) in advance of the event to give the outlet enough time to fit your event into their coverage schedule.

If the event or award already happened, send a press release to the appropriate contacts in your media list. It’s always a good idea to include a one or two sentence summary of the press release so the recipient has an idea of what they are going to read.

5. Follow up

Wait a few days after sending your alert or release to follow up with each of the contacts you reached out to. A simple phone call can mean the difference between getting your story covered or having it buried under the number of releases the editor reads on a daily basis.

Remember that everyone is very busy, but also that your local news media likes to be able to keep their readers, listeners or viewers informed about what’s happening in their neighborhood. Even if the news outlet doesn’t plan to cover your event or award, you’ve taken the first steps to building a relationship with that organization which can go a long way for future events.

6. Keep a record of your interactions

Take notes of which news outlets you’ve reached out to, which ones actually covered the story and any reporters or editors you’ve spoken with. These notes will be especially useful when reaching out to the news outlet for future coverage.

7. Save a “clipping” or copy of any news stories that get covered

Save clippings of any stories by newspapers, TV stations, magazines or radio stations. In most cases, news outlets save copies of every story and can easily provide you with a copy.

If you follow these simple steps, you’ll soon build solid relationships with your local media which will be mutually beneficial: you will aid them in providing relevant local news and your organization will benefit from the extra publicity.

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