Get to know news people

If you want the news media to cover your nonprofit, you need to work for it.

Just as you likely would not ask for a big gift when contacting a donor for the first time, don’t expect to get a front-page story the first time you contact a reporter.

So cultivate relationships with reporters, editors and news producers at your local news outlets, just as you would with prospective donors.

As in sales, cultivation starts with cold calls. So make initial contact with a phone call or email message. Introduce yourself, and ask if you can send a short write-up about your nonprofit.

If the answer is yes, keep the write-up short, and add a note offering to provide background information or a source for any story that involves your cause.

You might follow up later, asking to get together for coffee. Again, keep the visit short. Talk about your cause, and your nonprofit’s role and impact.

You also might ask to visit the news outlet and the people there who oversee news and opinion.

Then stay in touch. If the reporter writes a a good story — on any topic — send a note complimenting the reporter for the story.

When you have actual news, let the reporter know, and provide plenty of advance notice. And if your nonprofit is having a crisis, let the reporter know that too — after you and your staff and board have figured out what you want to say.

If you want news coverage, do not take news people for granted. Just as with donors, you have to build relationships and trust. And there is no single or correct way to do this. Use common sense.

Want help?

Philanthropy North Carolina is a consulting practice that provides writing and strategic communications support for nonprofits, foundations, colleges and universities, and others working for social good.

To find out more about hiring Philanthropy North Carolina to work with your organization to improve your communications, contact Todd Cohen at 919.272.2051 or

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