When that great idea for a news release isn’t news

Ann Lundquist
Ann Lundquist

Ann Lundquist

Your boss says “this would make a great news release.”

If the “this” is a new program, a major grant, an honor your organization recently received or a compelling case study with statistics that illustrate how you are making a difference in  your community – congratulations!

However, sometimes the “this” is more along the lines of a small in-kind donation or a routine event.

While you know it doesn’t warrant a release to the media, how do you explain your position to your boss?

Here are some tips that may help when you find yourself in this situation:

Set guidelines ahead of time. One good idea to prevent some of these uncomfortable conversations from even happening is to create news release guidelines that are part of your marketing plan.

You can identify ahead of time what is and isn’t considered news for your organization. For donation related news releases, the guidelines are an important tool for your donor recognition plan – so that a donation for $100 is not recognized the same way as one for $100,000.

Consider an individual pitch to targeted media. Rather than sending a release to your entire media list, why not consider an individual pitch to a specific reporter or publication with more interest in the subject?

For example, the fact that a new staff member speaks several languages may not interest a large city daily, but it would probably attract attention from media targeting the people who speak those languages. 

Consider alternative outlets. Suggest the story is more appropriate for your website, a Facebook post or an email or printed newsletter.  For example, something you are doing that is new for you – but that other organizations have already been doing – belongs on your website rather than in the media spotlight. Just remember that your website and social-media outlets should have content guidelines too.

Package as part of a larger story. Can you relate the idea to a larger story? If the donation from a school’s bake sale is the third donation from children you have received this month, you might have an interesting story. Sometimes it may take a bit of work to find a connection to other activities, but you could end up with a newsworthy idea.

Have an honest conversation about the outcome. We all know that sometimes you try to suggest alternatives, but people who don’t work with the media simply don’t understand that sending news releases that aren’t relevant to the media can actually do harm to your organization.

Or that if reporters happen to cover a certain story, they may not cover you again for awhile – and you could miss out on coverage for one of your organization’s most important events.

At some point, you may need to have an honest conversation about how reporters work. Many of us can share actual conversations we’ve had with reporters to illustrate these points.

Ann Lundquist is a senior project director with Shoestring Creative Group, the nonprofit’s agency. She can be reached at affiliates@shoestringgroup.com or


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