Get Noticed: tips to help catch the media’s attention

Advertising and Marketing – they are the thorn in the side of many non-profits. Educating the public is the foundation of a social movement, you have to be able to get your story out there, but on a shoestring budget that can prove to be difficult.

Media attention is a way to get your organizations story out into the world without having to spend limited resources. Unfortunately, journalists get a ton of pitches a day, and most of them never get a second look.

We at Volunteer Calgary teamed up with a  working journalist and journalism teacher at Mount Royal, Sally Haney, to give our readers some tips and tricks to get journalists to give your story a second look.

studyDo your research – Know which media outlet you are pitching your story to. Which journalist writes stories in your area? Are you trying to get Rolling Stone interested in a story about Calgary’s homeless? Do your research on the media outlet, and know which person in the outlet to pitch to. What is the #1 pet peeve of most journalists? Organizations that don’t send out any information about the event until the DAY of. You have to give reporters a couple days notice.

Identify a face for your story – Journalists are always on the lookout for a “face” for the story. Or, in layman’s terms, engaging a person with a compelling story makes it a human interest story.

Sally Says: Do the legwork for the journalist. Find a REAL person, affected by a REAL issue, and let them tell their story.

Pictures, Pictures, Pictures –  This tip goes hand in hand with identifying a face for young smiling girl making photoyour story.It is proven that stories with pictures are picked up more than stories without a compelling picture. People love pictures of people. Pictures of people doing something are much preferable to a headshot, or a simple picture of someone at a podium. Journalists are people too; they are probably going to be more inclined to be interested in a story with a picture.

Sally Says: Think visually, a beautiful photo or a link to a video can provide a nice visual anchor, especially in a press release, they tend to not include pictures at all. Many press releases rely entirely on text, which makes them overlooked a lot of the time.

Timing – Is your story timely? If your story is out of sync with what the viewer is wondering about, then a journalist will likely not pick up your story. During mosquito season, a story about how citronella keeps the mosquitos away makes sense. A story about back to school shopping in June doesn’t.

Sally Says: Really spend the time to figure out what is new here. What isn’t already widely known, to get a reporter excited for a story, it really helps if they are reporting on something fresh.

Data – Many non-profit’s have their own research, don’t be afraid to share it with the media outlet you are contacting. Turning your data into an infographic using sites like can be used if you don’t have an interesting picture.

Sally Says: Share your data with reporters, a lot of the time, the data can be really interesting. Since many sites are digital, hyperlinks can be your friend. Use bullet points for the most interesting parts of your data, but hyperlink to the bigger document.

iStock_000016067903Small[1]Social Media – Everyone talks about how social media is a powerful tool, but that’s because it is true. Social Media has permeated many industries, journalism is no different. Reporters are faced with a time crunch, so they will peruse Facebook looking for story ideas. You can also use social media to connect with reporters and cultivate those important relationships.

Sally Says: Journalists use social media to find story ideas, so make good use of your social media. It goes back to taking the time to find that story that reporters haven’t heard of, or haven’t reported on before. When they find a story like that through social media, they tend to pick it up.


About Propellus

Propellus is a non-profit organization that has been empowering organizations since 1955. Through a dynamic range of consulting, training and member services, it helps organizations envision and realize new paths, practices and possibilities. Propellus guides, mentors and educates clients, arming them with tools and resources to help boost organizational effectiveness. Propellus strengthens organizations; in doing so, it leads the way toward building thriving communities.
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