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There is no law that says charities should be bad at PR and marketing. Many aren’t, but those that are seem to be especially weak.

As I count a number of charities as clients, and often get asked ‘How come my charity gets no press?’ by others in the sector, I thought this list might help.

Here are 5 reasons your charity gets no press:

  1. You have no dedicated PR resource(s) working for you. Earned media is unpaid but not free. You want to ‘get out there’ and let the world know about your amazing mission, then  you need to make the investment in your resources. This can be in-house or agency, but it has to be something! Don’t worry, if things go right and you start building relationships with media your investment will more than likely pay off.
  2. Those who benefit from your charity’s work are not in front of media enough. There is a tendency for organizations that are not used to media attention to want their in-house people to do any and all media interviews. If you are a charity, MOST of the the media opps you get should feature people your work helps, not ‘official spokespeople’. The best stories – and those that drive donations to a charity – are the ones that tug at people’s heartstrings.
  3. Your charity does too few public events. Public events are but one arrow in the quiver of professional fundraisers. However, from a PR perspective they’re a key to building relationships with the media and wider public. People (including media) like events, and there is no doubt that charity events generally have a feel good vibe. This means they’re a nice counterpoint for journos, since ‘news’ is usually bad news.
  4. Your PR resources don’t understand the basics of charity PR. Pretty obvious, but this point needs to be on the list. Explaining the basics of charity PR is another blog post (maybe another book?). In short, you need the story to be about the impact your charity’s work, and make those who you’ve helped the bedrock of your community and the chief outreach ambassadors.
  5. Your leadership is not committed to raising the organization’s profile in the media. Like anything in business, very little is going to happen without real commitment from senior leaders. If your charity wants to take PR to the next level, you better have a champion at the top. It is not about having a CEO who is super smooth on camera (to some extent that can be taught) but about having someone who understand the relationship between earned media and the bottom line.  

I’ll leave it there, but do you have anything to add?

8 Comments

  • Danny Starr says:

    This also applies to non-profits. Correct?

    Question for you Jax: Is there some kind of “threshold” on how major the work the org does that would generate coverage? I volunteer with Computers for Communities and we donate computers to those that can’t afford them but we often do this in small batches and I am having a hard time getting coverage and my feeling is that the press wants to cover “larger” donations… but just a thought.

  • Excellent question Dan.

    Let’s be frank, it is certainly easier to get coverage when a charity receives or generates significant sums of cash. That said, I have worked on events where we have raised over $15 million in a weekend and media could have cared less. I think in your case, you need to craft the story not around the work you do, but around the benefits the receiver of the computer gets. Sounds kinda hokey I know, but it WORKS. It is basically asking a different set of questions. Happy to chat offline about this.

  • #6. Your charity defines “active in social media” as “always asking for money.” We get that charities, and nonprofits, ok, even for-profits, need money to survive. But if you ask for it all the time, without building your community and champions first, they’re going to tune you out.

  • Great add Shonali! And I know you would know 🙂

  • The biggest challenge I have seen with nonprofits is identifying and crafting the story. It’s very difficult to get attention if the story seems either too cut and dry or terribly convoluted. The challenge is in turning the mission of the organization and the work it does, into a visual and moving story that the public understands. Without the ability to craft the story it’s very difficult to get media attention. Great list! Looking forward to seeing what others add.

  • Great point, Mary. So glad you stopped by! Indeed, you’re right. I think sometimes non-profits forget about the power of rich media – and the visual elements of the story – in their content marketing.

  • Lea says:

    I second Mary’s point. I moved from newspaper journalism to nonprofit PR/communications/media relations, and I’ve found that nonprofit folks don’t understand what a story is – for the media or even for donors.

  • Joanna says:

    This is so true. I know a businessman from New York that is very dedicated to charity work but the press never mentioned his name. His organization helped hundreds of African kids and still no one heard about Yuri Mintskovsky….I started to thing he doesn’t want his name on a paper because he does charity work from the bottom of his heart.

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