Pitching Your Story to the Media

Man at iPad

Nonprofits that are featured in media stories share their story with their audience without paying for advertising space, graphic designers or printing costs. While there is no guaranteed method for gaining media attention for a nonprofit, there are several techniques that can make a nonprofit’s pitch more marketable for media coverage, or a simple mention in a news story.

Before contacting the media, nonprofits should do their research and learn which reporters cover stories that are similar to their own. These reporters and journalists are the people with whom nonprofits can more successfully ally. Often this involves developing a press list with contact information and the media staff person’s news focus.

When pitching a story to the media, some organizations choose to give a reporter an exclusive. The reporter is guaranteed to be the only one in the media with the story and can make a media outlet stand out from its competitors in the same market.

With the current trend of media covering sensational news, nonprofits can choose to frame their pitch as something unusual or extreme. Originality can make a story stand out in the stack of pitches in a reporter’s inbox. Our culture’s fascination with celebrities can also work to the advantage of nonprofits with connections to big names in the entertainment business, financial world or sports. Nonprofits may be surprised what names may draw the media’s interest; sometimes even involving local celebrities in the story can help a nonprofit’s pitch. This could include speakers at an event, well-respected staff members, big name funders or partnerships.

Another option is to frame the pitch as a local angle on a big national news story. This can be attractive to local media because it allows them to cover two stories in one. Human interest angles can also be appealing to the news media because the story becomes more personal for their targeted audience.

In general, nonprofits should make their pitch easy for the media to research and write. This involves making staff available to answer questions or interview with reporters, and providing pictures or photo opportunities as needed. The organization’s website should also be media friendly; reporters and the general public should be able to easily learn about the organization. Creating a press room with press releases and a press kit for reporters that includes logo files, mission statements and staff biographies can also be helpful to the media.

After pitching a story to the media, staff should follow up with the reporters or journalists. While it is important to be persistent, also be sure to respect the reporter’s time – they are often on deadline. Be patient and ask when would be a good time to call back. If a reporter rejects your pitch, don’t hesitate to ask why; this information can be helpful in the future.