We recently hosted a #NeverMoreNeeded webinar with media pros from Third Force News, BBC Scotland’s The Nine and Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home to chat about what makes a good news story and how charities can better share their work and impact. Here’s a quick overview:
What’s the best way to get coverage for charity work?
- First, find out if there any real people – volunteers, beneficiaries, staff – that the journalist can speak to or film
- If you’re looking to get something in print, get in touch nearer the time – if for TV, give plenty of notice
- Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and chat – journalists can help form a story or narrow down an angle/hook with you
- Be transparent – people can tell when you’re not being honest, whether it’s the press or public
- Think about why you want to get this message out/what you want people to do when they read/hear/see it – do you have a ‘call to action’?
- Look at your data – what is your main supporter demographic? Find out which channels they use/prefer (i.e. newspaper, Facebook, TikTok)
- Press is just one piece of the puzzle – think about advertising, social media, events, emails
How can charities make journalists aware of stories?
- Send or tag via social media – some journalists also follow particular hashtags or lists/groups
- Email a press release – and make the subject stand out!
- Send case studies, photos or clips if you can – user-generated content (i.e. staff and volunteers using their phones or contacts to create social media posts) has been crucial during lockdown when journalists have been unable to visit organisations
What makes a story news-worthy?
- An AGM won’t cut it – would you read a story about another organisation’s governance meeting?!
- Human interest is key – how does it relate to your audience/supporters/the public? Find a way to make it relevant to other people
- It doesn’t always have to be about lived experiences of your beneficiaries – it can be about campaigns, research findings or even less positive stories like drops in funding
- Certain topics – such as animal welfare – can invoke strong opinions and emotions, if your stance or policy divides opinion weigh up the pros and cons of sharing it widely. You can’t always please your funders, the public, stakeholders, management etc but it’s important to strike a balance
- Imagine you are explaining the story to a friend– what would you lead with? How would you elaborate?
Does it matter if a story has already been covered by another paper/channel?
- A story doesn’t have to be unique, just important (as long as you haven’t given it as an exclusive!)
Do news platforms accept opinions pieces from charity staff?
- Many nationals do have letters pages or space for opinions pieces or editorials so it’s worth checking with the editors responsible
- Third Force News (TFN) run regular op-eds from voluntary sector organisations on a daily basis – just get in touch
Press release tips?
- Give it a strong subject header in the email
- Keep it succinct – circa 500 words if possible – the journalist will follow up if necessary
- Make it easy for editors to pick out key points like stats and figures
- Send them to the right people – a blanket approach doesn’t work, find relevant reporters such as political or social affairs correspondents
- Press releases are often by committee which can lead to jargon – always ask yourself (and management!) if certain details are vital or if they can be linked etc
Do press releases have to include photos?
- Not always necessary if it’s something for TV/online as journalists usually prefer to source their own
- Very few articles in newspapers don’t have an image so include them if you can but avoid a stock image if possible (even if you don’t have a pic, a suggestion of the kind of image that could work can help journalists – remember, this is your area of expertise and you know which imagery would work best)
- Lots of your staff have smartphones – work with your them and build relationships by explaining the importance of communicating what they do to the running of the organisation and encourage them to send you content
- Always remember consent – make sure anyone featured has given their permission, is aware of how their image/words will be used, and is aware of their right to request it is taken down from the charity website or social media channel (this doesn’t apply with external news platforms – once it’s out, it’s out – and interviewees must be made aware of that)
Is access to a case study important or is it enough to provide pre-prepared content?
- Journalists working in TV or radio are very unlikely to use a pre-prepared case study without contacting the person in question first – it’s good practice, maintains accuracy and ensures the person is comfortable with how their story is being told
- Case studies are crucial in helping audiences understand charity work and how it impacts those who benefit from services – work with your teams internally to identify potential stories
- Learn to trust journalists – they are professionals who tell stories for a living and have a wealth of experience, as well as strict processes around informed consent
- If the story you are looking to share is particularly delicate, contact the journalist in advance so they can get to know the person being featured and build trust – it makes for a more impactful story and if there are worries around anonymity you can talk these through
Is it worth paying for sponsored social media content?
- It can be useful if you’re trying to reach a wider audience that doesn’t follow your channels
- It’s relatively cheap compared to online, radio, tv or print advertising – but you have to know who you’re targeting, which areas you’re looking to reach and how long you want the campaign to last
- It all depends on your objectives – what do you want to achieve/what’s the call to action?
- Be strategic and factor in social media budget ahead of time to complement planned campaigns etc
A recording of the full webinar is also available on our YouTube channel: