Whether you seek news coverage or not, your nonprofit always should be ready to handle questions from news outlets.
You need a plan that designates, in advance, who on your staff or board should talk to reporters, and you need to prepare talking points to explain what your nonprofit does, the community need it addresses, the people it serves, and the impact it makes.
If you invite coverage — of a grant, new program, new hire, special event — be ready not only to talk about what you think is the news, but also to answer whatever questions the reporter asks.
And if you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t try to improvise or tell the reporter the question is not important. It’s not your job to tell the reporter how to do his or her job. Instead, say you will try to get an answer, and make sure you find out the reporter’s deadline and get the reporter’s cell phone number.
Let the reporter know you are available if the reporter has more questions later, or wants to check facts and quotes. But do not ask to see the story before it runs, or try to edit it for the reporter.
Most important, recognize that you cannot — and should not try — to control a story, what it will say or how it will portray your organization.
The best you can do is to be open, honest, clear and helpful with reporters, as well as accessible. And if the reporter is hostile or belligerent, try to answer the questions, but do not feel the need to go beyond what was asked, and do not become hostile or belligerent yourself. Stick to the high road.
While you cannot control news coverage, you can do your best to help make sure the story it tells about your organization and your cause is accurate.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.