In the age of social electronic media, media expert Holly Minch dares to defy the Twitter evangelists and makes the case for the power of traditional print and radio:
There's tremendous strategic value in traditional media . . . yes, still! Three reasons why writing press releases and pitching reporters are still worth it:
1. Third-party validation. As pithy as your latest tweet is, as fun-filled as your latest Facebook update is, there's one thing that social media simply can't give you: third-party validation. Don't forget that more than 58 percent of people get their news from television and 34 percent read the newspaper. Face it: an article about you in the Chicago Times will impress your funders and donors; a post on your Facebook page won't.
2. A reach beyond the choir. Social media shares news with people who already care about you, but mainstream media introduces your organization to new audiences. E-chaperoning and advertising reach beyond the choir, but none can match earned media's bang for the buck. All it takes is time, the right approach, and a good story to tell (see below for tips).
3. Something to crow about online. A local news segment about your event or a flattering profile of your executive director can make waves in your social media stream. Many organizations make this "long-tail effect" a core of their social media strategy. Use social media to push your traditional media coverage, with emails to supporters encouraging them to share it. Traditional media coverage engages your community while making them proud of their connection to your organization.
But how to get that coverage?
Now that we've convinced you that traditional media is worth pursuing, how do you actually go about getting yourself media coverage? Here is one fast "how to" and one unexpected opportunity:
The fast "how to:" Getting coverage isn't rocket science, but it takes smarts. You need legitimate news: something remarkable, a trend that tells a story, or research you've conducted. Second, you need a hook. For example, during the winter, tie a story about hunger to the cold weather. Third, before you pick up the phone to pitch your story, familiarize yourself with what the reporter has written, particularly as it pertains to your issue. Don't forget to email a reporter to let them know you liked a story they wrote with an offer to buy them a cup of coffee . . . getting on their good side before you need to pitch them.
Unexpected opportunity: Ethnic media and local/neighborhood papers are overlooked outlets in reaching your target audiences. Ethnic media continue to grow by more than 10% a year . . . exactly the opposite of mainstream print. (Did you know there are more than 250 African American papers?) Neighborhood newsletters are the original hyper-local, much-read media. Ethnic media and neighborhood papers are often smaller operations looking for relevant material -- maybe a new service in a neighborhood, or a community member who is on staff.
And remember: when you land that story -- whether in a national magazine or a neighborhood paper -- you'll have great news to tweet about!
Holly Minch is former executive director of the Spin Project which teaches nonprofits how to get covered by the media. Through her firm, LightBox Collaborative, she consults to foundations and nonprofits, helping them hold their ideas up to the light. When the local paper arrives on her doorstep, she always reads the funnies first.