"Make your pitch!” Does that phrase alone make your skin crawl?
Building and maintaining a positive relationship with the media isn’t necessarily difficult. And it should be an important aspect of every nonprofit’s marketing strategy (no matter how large or small your organization!).However, getting featured in a news outlet or noticed by a journalist does take a certain amount of persistence — especially when you’re first starting out. Ready to get your organization’s name and mission out there on a larger scale? Then the following step-by-step guide for establishing a positive connection with media personnel was created with you in mind.
Find The Right Outlet / Reporter
Assuming you already know what you want to pitch to the media (ex. an event; an exciting new initiative; showcasing your volunteers’ efforts), you need to seek out the appropriate outlet or journalist that aligns with your organization and mission.
So, if your nonprofit revolves around animal welfare issues, you will naturally hunt for publications that share a similar focus, or seek out journalists who have depicted through their past work that they are knowledgeable when it comes to writing about animal welfare issues.
Dig For Contact Information
Found a media outlet or journalist that seems to fit the bill? Great! Now, you need to figure out who you should be addressing as the first point of contact from that organization. Sometimes this information is easy enough to find on their website, but other times this will require a bit of digging on your part. Check the header or footer of their website for links to:
- Contact Us
- Frequently Asked Questions
Any of these pages may hold more information about who your first point of contact within the organization should be, along with protocol for you to follow when contacting them. Alternatively, you can search up a particular journalist on LinkedIn or Twitter. Or, go old school! Call up the media outlet directly to inquire about the best way to move forward.
Warm Them Up With An Introduction
Cold calling (or emailing) someone to request that they feature you can definitely feel awkward and self-serving! Instead, send them a friendly introductory email letting them know how you found them, plus any of their recent work that you enjoyed or appreciated.
Most people love to talk about themselves and their achievements, so you might consider asking the reporter a question about their work. This way, they have a personally compelling reason to respond and begin a dialogue with you:
My name is Samantha and I’m the Communications Director at [your nonprofit for animal welfare]. At [your nonprofit], we raise awareness for [your nonprofit’s mission].
I came across your article "Toronto Animal Shelters: Overloaded and Underfunded” on the Toronto Star’s website. I appreciated your take on this important issue and took the liberty of searching up your LinkedIn profile to learn more about your work.
I see that you’ve been writing for the Star for 2 years — impressive! I’m curious to know: how often do you find yourself covering animal welfare issues?
Personalize Your Pitch For The Journalist
This goes along with the previous point — just as your introduction served to warm up a friendly dialogue, your actual pitch should be personalized as well. If the journalist responded to the question you asked in your introductory message, you can open your pitch by acknowledging their response:
Hi again Raj,
Wow, it’s so great to hear that you’ve had a passion for animal welfare issues since your college years! I've had a similar experience — adopted my first dog while in high school and have been working to improve the shelter experience for the animals ever since (hence how I’ve ended up working here at [nonprofit]).
Now that you’ve established some common ground with the journalist, you can go more in-depth about the who, what, why and how of your organization. What type of work does your organization do and for who? Why do you do what you do, and why should the journalist (and their readers) care? Feel free to link out to social media accounts that can highlight your amazing initiatives and help put a face to your team, volunteers, and those you help.
If and when appropriate, you can pepper in small references back to the journalist throughout your pitch. Of course, don’t overdo it! Personalize your letter to the journalist’s interests as much as possible, so long as your pitch still comes off natural (rather than desperate).
Proofread Your Pitch
No matter how enticing the content of your email or letter, nothing will kill a pitch faster than misspellings or poor grammar — especially for someone like a journalist who writes for a living! After you’ve written out your pitch, have yourself (and ideally one more person) proofread for the following common errors:
- Did you spell the journalist’s name right?
- Did you address them by their title?
- If you included links, do they all work correctly?
- If you mentioned any email attachments, did you make sure they’re all actually attached?
- Did you share your contact information?
- If the journalist asked any questions, did you reply to each of them in your response?
- Any other typos, punctuation or grammar mistakes?
There are endless reasons a journalist may not reply to your pitch as quickly as you hope — they might have an influx of inquiries at this time of year, or forgot to get back to you, or something else came up unexpectedly on their end. Give it 2-3 business days before sending a friendly follow-up email.
And if a week or two goes by without a response? Maybe their schedule is too full to take on a new project at the moment, or your pitch simply didn’t align with the angle they chose to go with for a story. Don’t get discouraged and don’t take it personally — it’s all part of the game! Keep their contact information in your records so you can maintain the relationship and pitch them again in the future when the timing feels right.