When it comes to increasing awareness and boosting fundraising there’s nothing like local media coverage to help you punch above your weight, says Kate Beard
The local media is often considered a poor relation to its national cousin. It is, in fact, the UK’s most popular print medium, read by 33 million people each week. On top of that, research shows that local newspapers and websites are the most trusted of all media.
Local journalists are always looking for news and features, so here are some practical tips to help you approach them.
Have a press contact
No matter how small your charity is, it’s vital that at least one person has responsibility for media and PR. Update your website so their details are easily found by journalists looking to discuss stories. Include a mobile number so they can contact someone outside office hours. It’s important to be available when a journalist gets in touch.
You’ll also need to decide who your best spokesperson is. This may or may not be the press contact. It might be your chief executive or a trustee - the more senior or specialised the better. Above all your spokesperson needs to be articulate, friendly and confident in interviews.
Know your media
You might flick through your local paper every so often, but it helps to really get to grips with your media. Make a list of which titles cover your patch, and find out who the key journalists are and what stories they cover.
Your local media will include print, websites, TV and radio. It helps to think about the kind of content they need. Print journalists want high resolution images to go with a story, radio journalists look for memorable guests to interview and TV producers want interesting locations or events to film. Keep this in mind when you offer content.
Keep it local
It may sound obvious, but keep your content relevant to your area. Your cause might be national, but your piece will need a regional connection. Find a local person to act as a case study or include comment from a local councillor or MP to make it work for where you live.
Think about what news, events or fundraising campaigns you have coming up. If it might be of interest to the local media, write a short press release. Include a clear overview of what is happening, when, where and why. Build in a snappy quote from your spokesperson, and include a link to your website or fundraising page. Remember to include contact details so journalists can get in touch for more information.
…but think reactively too
Are there things happening in your community that you can respond to? Are there issues that journalists are covering that you have an opinion on? If the answer is ‘yes’, write a response statement. This can be a time-efficient way of generating coverage and can help you build relationships with journalists.
Make it human
A case study is a good way of communicating your work and the impact you have. The media thrives on stories with a strong human interest angle. Often it’s not enough to talk about a service or a fundraising event; journalists want to know about your fundraisers and the people you support. If you have beneficiaries or staff who are happy to talk to the media, include them in your press releases.
Get out there!
Many journalists prefer to receive information by email first, but it’s important to follow up your press release with a phone conversation to see if the story is of interest or if you can help with more information.
Spend your time wisely
It’s easy to put a great deal of time and effort into sending press releases out and liaising with journalists, so make sure you evaluate the return you get for the time you spend securing media coverage. Keeping track will help you to discover what kind of media coverage works best for your organisation - and what ultimately helps you raise more money.
Kate Beard is a senior consultant at Amazon PR
This article first appeared in The Fundraiser magazine, Issue 15, 2012