Hannah Brazee Gregory
The best media mentions sometimes aren’t about your nonprofit at all.
But they can be highly effective in terms of increasing the awareness of your organization and, more importantly, its credibility.
Where will you find such mentions? Look through the New York Times. Scan your local newspaper. Pay attention to who CNN is interviewing.
When a reporter is working on a story they almost always need one thing: an expert.
Here are five steps to use take advantage of the media’s constant need for experts on every topic imaginable:
Identify your nonprofit’s experts
The term “expert” doesn’t have to mean someone with a Ph.D. or someone who has recently published a medical paper.
Rather, an expert is someone who has knowledge, experience and perspective on a particular issue or subject.
Does your nonprofit provide resources for the homeless? Does it plant trees on Earth Day? Does it provide scholarships for inner-city kids to attend summer camp?
Whatever your mission is, there is a subject area in which someone is an expert.
Keep in mind that sometimes the expert is the executive director or program manager, but other times it might be a volunteer, a board member or even a recipient of your services.
Prepare your experts
This can begin with something as simple as role play. Pretend you are the reporter and ask questions. Be sure to ask questions about the issue and not just about your nonprofit organization.
This practice is something that should be done with all of your potential experts. This will allow you to determine if someone is a suitable spokesperson.
You will want to brief the potential expert on things he or she should or should not say about your organization.
Additionally, keep track of all of the questions and answers so you can create an “Interview Q&A.”
Package your experts
A great way to let a reporter know about your expert candidate is sending an “Interview Q&A” with the expert on a particular subject.
This provides the reporter an idea of what it might be like when they conduct the interview.
In addition, you will want to provide a brief biography of the expert that outlines his or her expertise and experience in a given subject. If they have media experience, list that as well.
In addition to providing this “package” on your website, there are several online resources reporters use that allow you to list your expert.
ProfNet Connect (from PR Newswire) is the most well-known and is used by universities and other large institutions. In addition to their premium services for a fee, they offer some free services, including listing experts in their database as well as forums to connect with other experts.
HARO (Help a Reporter Out) is a favorite among journalists and attention seekers.
Reporter Connection is yet another free outlet that your nonprofit can utilize to package (and pitch) your experts.
Monitor the news
If you want to get in the news, you have to know what is in the news.
What’s the latest buzz? Respond to current events in a timely manner and stay in tune with the news.
Tomorrow is National Hug-A-Tree Day and your nonprofit plants trees? Bingo!
A new report was just released that says if you attend summer camp you are more likely to become president and your nonprofit provides summer camp scholarships? Yahtzee! You get the idea.
Be proactive and ready to pitch your experts so you can take advantage of these opportunities when they arise.
Pitch your experts
The online resources provided about not only allow you to list your experts for journalists to search, they also have constant queries from journalists looking for experts.
This allows you to be more proactive in your efforts to get your experts in the news. Scan these daily and pitch them accordingly.
The sites also provide tips for how to pitch, and ProfNet Connect even has case studies available, so take advantage.
Additionally, proactively pitch your experts to local media when the opportunity arises. Local media want local sources.
Your nonprofit has something that journalists need – experts on subjects they cover.
While for-profits constantly attempt to get their experts in the news, nonprofits have an edge. Nonprofits fall in the “public interest” category most of the time, therefore your experts are far more reputable than those from a for-profit with shareholders to impress.
Use this to your advantage and get your experts in the news.