You may not think that your organisation could be featured in the press – however, journalists are often looking for stories featuring non-profit organisations that are making a difference worldwide, and your organisation may be able to offer a story that nobody else can give.
Building relationships with the press, writing press releases and pitching to journalists are all ways that you can build your organisation’s profile and get recognised for your work.
Writing a press release
If you have some news from your organisation that you think should be featured in the press, writing a press release is the best way to get noticed and get the right information to journalists quickly.
Press releases are short, factual news stories, written in the third person and given to journalists to allow them to easily and quickly turn into a news story or feature without too much additional writing.
The release can be about anything, but to be effective, it should be newsworthy. For example:
- The launch of a new programme
- Significant update to your existing programme or services
- Opening a new office or rebranding
- Introducing a new partner or donor
- A big fundraising event, or fundraising milestone
- Receiving an award
- A tie-in with a national event, such as International Women’s Day
Most journalists are bombarded with dozens of press releases every day. Because of this, you should take care that your release is in the right format, and is clear and easy to understand.
Write a great headline.
A journalist will scan this first and make a snap judgement on whether to keep reading. Your headline should grab attention and distil your story into one sentence. It should sum up the story and keep people interested. Think to yourself – what about this headline will make people want to read more? Keep it under 140 characters if you can.
For example, instead of “Welsh non-profit turns ten”
“Welsh non-profit celebrates milestone birthday by supporting ten schools in Africa to access clean water”
Think about your hook
For your story to get featured in the press, it has to be of interest to the public. When writing your release, always ask yourself, ‘why is this interesting to someone outside my organisation?’. If it’s not, consider changing the angle so that it is.
Sum up the story in the first paragraph
Get to the point quickly, and use each subsequent paragraph to add in detail. Use additional paragraphs towards the end of the release to talk about who you are as an organisation, and what you do.
Include a quote
This will help bring the story to life, and make it easier for the journalist to write as they may not need to then contact you for a quote. For example, if you are holding an event, ask your board or figurehead for a quote to include about what the event hopes to achieve.
Keep it short and to-the-point
Ensure your press release stays on topic and doesn’t have too much unnecessary information. Keeping it to one side of A4 is a good way of staying on track.
Do you have access to a case study that can help your story come to life? Or images that could be used with the story? Is your founder available for interview? Create a ‘Notes for Editors’ section at the end of the press release and give details of anything additional you can offer that would persuade a journalist to cover the story.
Cover the 5 ‘W’s and 1 ‘H’
Your press release should be a complete story – remember to cover the 5 ‘W’s and 1 ‘H’:
- Who is the press release about?
- What is the story?
- Why is there a press release about this subject?
- Where is the story based?
- When is the story happening?
- How does this story add value to the reader?
Tweak the release depending on where you are sending it
Take the time to edit your release slightly based on where you are planning on sending it. If you’re targeting local press, increase the mention of the local angle, and why it is of interest for local people. If you’re sending it to a national paper, review the language used to make sure the angle is applicable to everyone nationally.
Pitching a release to press
Taking the time to build a relationship with key journalists is something that will make your press release more likely to be used. Reaching out and asking what they are working on, and if there is anything you can do to help (for example, providing case studies) can help get your organisation on their radar.
Look up the key contacts at different newspapers and news websites, including newsdesk, events and local reporters. If they aren’t listed online, call the general newsdesk or switchboard and ask who the most relevant contacts are for different sections.
Send a personalised email with the release to each contact, and make sure you quickly explain what the release is about and why it is of interest to their readers. Make your email short, friendly and to-the-point. Include contact details in case they have any questions.
For important releases, consider following up your email with a phone call a day later, to see if there is any interest and if there’s any more information they would like.
If you would like to discuss any specific communications needs or arrange for some tailored communications support, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org