Photo by Suzy Hazelwood
3 min Read
March 13, 2024

Should the media be an audience for your brand?

Media coverage can be a great way to broaden your nonprofit’s reach to prospective and current program participants and supporters. But with limited capacity and budgets, it can be difficult to know how, or even if, to incorporate media outreach into your communications and marketing plans.

Your marketing plan, and all of your communications activities, should advance your mission and support your organizational goals. When you begin creating your marketing plan, setting your goals – what communications should achieve for your nonprofit – is the first step. Do you want to boost the number of sign ups for a program, increase funding from donors, shift your brand perception, or something else?    

Next, identify and prioritize your audiences. The media can help amplify the work your organization is doing and lead to greater exposure within a key audience you may be trying to reach or influence, such as funders, policymakers, or activists. Even if your primary audience is highly niche – pet owners in the San Diego area – local media can serve as a trusted source of information if you understand where your prospective supporters and advocates are consuming their news. 

While the potential benefits are high, you must consider if the time you or your communications team will spend on media outreach is worth pursuing. One of the key factors to account for is how important it is for the media to know about your nonprofit. Let’s say you are trying to reach members of Congress. High-profile media coverage may be a necessity to elevate your credibility and put your advocacy or funding issues front and center, so the media would be a primary audience. If getting quoted or profiled by the press or media outlet could be helpful, but is not essential to reaching your supporters, advocates, or funders, the media is likely a secondary or a tertiary audience. 

If the media is just another audience for your organization to engage, how can you reach them? As with any other audience, consider their motivation. If it’s a local news outlet based in Chicago, they likely want to share news and information related to people and events in their geographic region. If your nonprofit has a new report related to improving the mental health of teens, Teen Vogue may make sense. Take some time to review the outlet’s “About us” page if they have one, or recent coverage, as it can give you insight into who they seek to reach and what topics they cover. If the outlet also has a masthead or staff page, it will often list each journalist’s area of focus. Review some of their articles or videos to understand how they frame the story and get a sense of what interests them. Keep in mind that blogs with large followings can be just as impactful as traditional magazines, newspapers, and TV/radio when reaching your primary audience.

After you’ve created your media list of outlets and journalists that make sense for outreach, you can take a few different routes. Maybe your nonprofit doesn’t have any timely news or events, but you can create touchpoints with journalists. 

  • Follow them on social media (X, Threads, or LinkedIn for example) and send a brief note introducing yourself with your nonprofit’s elevator pitch to slowly build the relationship.
  • Offer up a staff member (possibly your Executive Director!) who can speak to topics within your organization’s landscape. 
  • Spend 10 minutes every week skimming through the journalist’s recent content and liking, commenting, and sharing the pieces that you enjoyed.
  • Draft a brief pitch when you have timely news, data, or an event or live webinar to share, and email it to your shortlist of journalists. 

It may take a few interactions or emailed pitches to receive a response or a favorable outcome, but consistency and patience are key.

Media outreach can be very time-consuming and earned media is not guaranteed, so it’s crucial to do your research and focus your engagement on just the outlets that would generate the best results. It may be your board member’s dream for your nonprofit to appear in the New York Times, but your time may be better spent focusing on outlets that are actively consumed by your primary audiences and the work your organization is doing.

At Big Duck, we love thinking about audience-first communications and how the media can fit into your larger marketing plan. If you’re looking for a partner to discuss further, drop us a line!