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Online media for nonprofit events

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Mary Williams Stover

Mary Williams Stover

Mary Williams Stover

More options than ever before are available to nonprofit organizations seeking to promote your fundraising and volunteer events. Beyond the traditional news release, take advantage of what I call the D.I.Y. or “do it yourself” approach to media relations to promote your event.

Realize your press release is competing with 300-400 others sent daily to editors. How do you cut through the clutter? Carpe diem! Seize the day. Or at least, seize the internet, and promote your event directly using the internet and media websites.

Here are a few tips to consider:

* Realize that getting your event listed in the calendar section of your local newspaper does help. It also provides the editor with an opportunity to support your event when they can’t send a reporter to cover it.

* Post your event photos on websites created by your local television station. Small is the new big. Television stations are now offering viewers the chance to list events by city and county, and are assigning reporters who live in the community to report and cover stories. Reach out to these reporters and introduce them to your organization. Their focus is on reaching communities within a specific geographic area.

* Events posted on the television station’s website are also a source for the week-end anchors who are looking for interesting activities to highlight on the Friday broadcast.

* Seek websites that list things to do in your community and register to post events about your agency online. Once you register, you can share event photos, news and point of view opinions. It takes only 2 minutes to register and join online forums that are relevant to your nonprofit. This is a great assignment for a college intern or volunteer.

* Take advantage of mini-sites. In North Carolina there is Triangle Mom2Mom.com, a new website created by the News & Observer to target women. The site includes a listing of things to do for the weekend. Another great site in North Carolina is MyNC.com which provides nonprofits with opportunities to list events and post video to promote your agency. Again, why wait for a reporter to cover your event when you can reach your target audience directly.

* Always include hyperlinks to your agency to drive visitors to your website. Once people visit your website to find information about an event, have content to meet their needs and provide resources to keep them coming back to your site.

* Make the most of cable television public affairs programs. Check out the website in your community and contact producers who are looking for local guest speakers. Promote your event directly to producers and pitch your story and a volunteer to appear as a guest on the show. Once your agency spokesperson is featured on the program, send out an email blast to your volunteers and supporters to promote the program broadcast dates and times.

* Distribute press releases directly to your target audience by building a mailing list of emails and bypassing media completely.  Provide a link to your Facebook page at the end of your press release and don’t forget to send releases to bloggers, online news sites and speakers that reach your target audiences. Use your list of current or prospective donors, sponsors and volunteers to help spread the word by sending your press release to them as well. The key is to make your news release title humorous and content educational versus sales-oriented. Be conscious of the words and phrases used in the news releases to ensure you reach niche targets audiences who are searching for you using Google or other search engines.

According to Susan King-Cope, Director of Development for NAMI North Carolina, “We have a long-term perspective and view media coverage of our NAMI Walk event as a strategy to educate our audience and boost support for our agenda.”

Having a front-page story about your special event appear as the top news story in your community is what every nonprofit wants, but it’s just as important to reach the right audience with your message. You can tell your story directly and control the message.

Remember successful media relations means reaching the right audience with useful information and content that establishes a relationship with people who value your services and mission.


Mary Williams Stover is a nonprofit marketing consultant based in Cary, N.C., and a Shoestring Creative Group Network Affiliate.  Mary can be reached at affliliates@shoestringgroup.com or 1-888-835-6236.

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