Getting your charity’s story into the national papers is something most charity professionals dream about. The attention your charity would receive from the publicity could help bring in more donations, volunteers and supporters.
However, getting into the national papers will remain a dream for the majority of charities if what two senior newspaper journalists say is true.
Andrew Pierce, consultant editor at the Daily Mail and Kevin Maguire, associate editor at the Daily Mirror, told the audience at the NCVO Evolve conference in June that editors are not generally interested in positive stories about the sector. Pierce said:
“National newspapers sell a lot of papers not by writing stories about wonderful work going on but when there is controversy.”
Looking at both the Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail online it is clear to see Pierce and Maguire are not exaggerating – most of the stories about charities were not positive. In fact, last week the Daily Mail seemed to personally attack directors of fundraising.
However…there is some hope for charities, as while there are not many positive charitable stories, there are some. The Daily Mail recently posted two such stories – one about WI members going to Glastonbury to change the perception of the organisation, and the second about a boy of twelve saving his sister thanks to a St John’s Ambulance advert.
It can be hard to remain optimistic when journalists say that they are only interested in bad news as we have recently seen, but it is important for charities of all sizes to keep sharing their stories with both local and national reporters – after all if you don’t try you have absolutely no chance of getting the attention you deserve. Plus, while there are some media outlets that generally do not share many charity stories, there are some – like The Huffington Post, Upworthy, and my website, Good News Shared – that do.
Here are seven tips to give your story the best chance of being used
Create stories, not press releases
Journalists receive thousands of press releases each day. Make yours stand out by telling your story, rather than following the same press release format that everyone else is using.
Use an interesting subject title
Grab the journalists’ attention with the title in the email subject. If you don’t, the chances of your email being read is very slim.
Piggyback onto other news
If your story fits into the context of some big current news make sure that you use it as it’s topical and therefore more likely to be picked up.
Build relationships on Twitter
Follow journalists on Twitter and get to know what they write about and are interested in. By understanding what the journalist requires, you’ll have a much better chance of securing media coverage. Also, search the hashtag #journorequest so you can see exactly what journalists are looking for to write about.
Send good, high quality, images
Always consider the publication, to which you’re sending your story, when choosing which photos to send them. Look at the kind of photos they use in their stories to get a feel for what they like. If you would like to send several images provide a link to a website such as Flickr and allow them to download from there or use a service such as Dropbox.
Contact the right person, in the way that they prefer
If calling is easier for you but the journalist prefers an email – send an email. Things can change quickly, so make sure you do your research. For example, BBC News accepts pictures, videos and messages sent to them by WhatsApp now.
Use the resources available to you
If your story doesn’t get used in the national press try not to feel too despondent. There are lots of ways you can promote the story yourself, so it has not been a waste of your time. Plus the experience of pitching to journalists will be useful the next time you want to pitch a story. Create a media list with information on each publication and journalist you contacted as this will help you the next time you go through the process.
Also, by sending a well-crafted press release you are showing journalists that the charity sector is interested in engaging with them, which hopefully will influence them to consider news stories from charities in the future.