10 Best Practices for Pitching Cause Efforts to the Media

Cone logo A little over a week ago, I featured a post from Cone that provided NGOs with tips for when they are reaching out to potential corporate sponsors. This week, Cone continues with the good advice and lists the 10 best practices for NGOs pitching their initiatives to the media. Both guides encourage organizations to be aware of the drivers of the company/media beyond the positive message.

Posted Feb. 10, 2010
By Erica Vogelei, Account Director, Cone

I recently participated on a panel organized by the Corporate Volunteer
Council of Greater Boston. The topic was “Telling Your Story, How and
When to Showcase Volunteer and Philanthropic Programs.” At Cone, we
believe telling your story is a critical piece to ensure your
cause-related efforts are most effective in making both business and
social impacts.

Here are 10 best practices for pitching your cause efforts to the media:

  1. Don’t Be Shy! – These days both consumers and
    employees expect companies to “stand for something” and those
    expectations continue to rise. Even during the current economic
    downturn, 52% of Americans have the same expectations for companies to
    support causes, while 26% believe companies should be doing even more.
    And consumers want to know what companies are doing – 91% of Americans
    believe that companies should communicate their cause efforts. So be
    proud of the great work your company is doing and find newsworthy ways
    to tell your story!
  2. Be Authentic – While you’ll want to find the
    right angle to pitch your story, you always want to make sure you are
    being authentic and transparent. Consumers are savvy and look for
    companies that “walk the talk.” Make sure that your story is credible
    and be willing (and prepared) to share the details of your efforts.
  3. Identify Your Objectives – Getting your story
    published should not be your end goal. Hopefully there is a strategy
    behind your efforts. Understand what you are trying to accomplish by
    telling your story. Do you want to be seen as a good corporate citizen
    by the local community? Are you looking to get in front of potential
    employees or existing stakeholders? Are you trying to recognize the
    efforts of your current staff? Identifying your objectives will help
    you focus your efforts and determine the best channel(s) for reaching
    your target audience(s).
  4. Consider All Your Channels – The local news media
    is just one of many communications channels available to you. Take some
    time to brainstorm potential channels and then identify those most
    appropriate for reaching your target audience. If you are looking to
    reach an external audience, think beyond traditional channels to
    include social media, blogs, etc. You may also engage your nonprofit
    partner to release its own announcement and add a layer of credibility
    to your story. If you are looking to reach an internal audience,
    consider leveraging your employee newsletter, intranet, staff meetings,
    etc. Be creative and give these channels the same thought and care you
    do to external communications.
  5. Make It Their Story – Keep in mind who you are
    pitching your story to and why it matters to them. Find a way to make
    it their story. For example, you might pitch your most recent volunteer
    effort to revamp a local computer clubhouse to a reporter covering the
    tech beat, focusing on how your company is addressing the digital
    divide.
  6. Focus On A Trend – Try to align your story with a
    broader trend. The recession continues to be the biggest story of late,
    so positioning your story in light of the recent economic downturn may
    help it get some traction. Or, even better, identify a new trend and
    pitch an exclusive. Journalists love the opportunity to be the first to
    cover a story. At the same time, take care not to capitalize on
    something in the news simply to be timely. Ensure there is a relevant
    and appropriate connection to your cause. Leveraging the recent tragedy
    in Haiti to tell your own story, for example, could be viewed as
    insensitive.
  7. Show Impact – Highlight the measureable, positive
    impact your company is making. This may include the number of employees
    engaged or the number of youth served. Whatever it is, demonstrating
    the positive effect you are having on society will illustrate the
    importance of your efforts and make it more newsworthy.
  8. Tug On Some Heart Strings – While data are
    important, making your story emotionally compelling will be most
    effective in getting your message across. Tell the personal side of
    your story, whether it be from a volunteer, beneficiary, or even
    employee, perspective.
  9. Use Visuals – Provide images, from pictures or
    videos, to help bolster your story and highlight your emotional human
    tales. A picture really can be worth a thousand words!
  10. Continue To Do Great Work! – At the end of the
    day, it’s the powerful work you are doing to support a cause that is
    most important. Continue to find creative ways to leverage all your
    assets to benefit both business and society, and your story will tell
    itself.

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