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The Non-Profit Communicator

Advice & information on using communications to achieve your organizational goals

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Pitching Notes

This space is normally reserved for great advice and contact information from some of New York City's best reporters, but this issue, I'm using it to provide some general advice on pitching, or, more specifically, developing a media list.


My firm recently managed PR for the reopening of the South Street Seaport Museum.


Our media list started with nearly 70 reporters at over 50 media outlets. It has since doubled. 


Why did we need such an extensive list and how did we put it together?


We started by asking what we wanted as a result of the coverage: a lot of visitors. 


Then we thought about the media outlets that would reach these people.


For general interest, there are mainstream, city-wide outlets: the newspapers, radio stations, television, and magazines.


For parents looking for things to do with their kids, there are parent magazines, blogs, and event listing sections in news papers.


For photography enthusiast (there are three photography installations) there are a bunch of targeted media outlets.


And the list goes on.


As we added more outlets and thought about stories to pitch, we always came back to our key question: would the coverage get people to visit.


If you are building a media list or updating one, I recommend doing the same. Otherwise, your hard earned clips will only have one purpose: wallpaper.



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Issue: 8 March 2012


Last month, I experienced a PR nightmare - a reporter who I thought had set out to write a positive piece, turned it into a negative story. Read below about how I handled the situation.

You can learn a lot about handling various situations - in particular marketing and promotions - from the corporate sector and some well-funded non-profits.  Read more below.

As always, let me know if you have questions or suggestions for this newsletter.  I'll try to get the next newsletter out soon.



Take on the Criticism

Recently, we pitched a story about a program that helps teens create and promote PSAs about safe sex, saying no, healthy relationships, and STDs.  Our goal was to get people to watch the PSAs.


New York being New York, we didn't think the program or the PSAs would cause alarm.  Still, we pitched it to a paper that six months earlier had written a positive story about the program.


From the start of the interview, we knew this story wasn't headed in the right direction.  The reporter zeroed in on one street slang term from over 10 minutes worth of videos.  Despite repeated conversations with the reporter, this term became the entire story, which included a quote from an elected official who claimed to be shocked.


To say the least, the client, Community Healthcare Network (CHN), was not happy.  We did our due diligence and argued with the editor, but that night, the story appeared online.


Thankfully, the next morning CHN agreed to use the media-created controversy to raise awareness for the program and the PSAs.  We also rallied the organization's supporters and increased engagement with stakeholders.


We spent the day pitching and interviewing.  Some of the stories were neutral, others, like the ones that appeared on NY1's Inside City Hall and The Gothamist, were supportive.


We also reached out to stakeholders with a call to action email that resulted in broad support and successfully placed letters to the editor. Our response also generated public support from the program's funder.


Most important, the videos were viewed nearly 250,000 times!  


Catherine Abate, president and CEO of CHN, says she moved forward because "Having courage and standing up for what you believe in is important."  You can read more about it here.  



Copy the Corporations
Every nonprofit should be copying the corporations by taking their very well researched marketing ideas and adapting them to your own use.

You need look no further than Mac and Nike to see how a great marketing campaign can put you ahead of the pack (you might also want to read Robin Hood Marketing, a book about stealing corporate savvy introduced to me by NPCC's Michael Clark).  

The truth is, I can also mention some very well-funded non-profits, like NY Presbyterian Hospital, whose powerful ads you must have seen by now.

Corporations and a handful of nonprofits spend millions of dollars figuring out how to best engage their customers.  Others should learn, and borrow from them.

Recently, there was a very good related article in the New York Times Magazine (find it here) about what retailers do to learn more about you, in order to sell you more products and to increase your brand loyalty.

I'm not suggesting you can or should go this far, even the retailer in the story pulled back a little, but the point is, can you learn more about your stakeholders in order to more effectively engage them?

Corporations are also using video to tell their story.  Companies like Con Ed are even using some in-house staff to create these videos.  

YouTube just released a guide to help nonprofits successfully use video as part of their external communications effort.  You can access the guide here.


I am hiring again. I am looking for a junior person with 1-2 years PR and communications experience in New York City, preferably with a city agency or elected official.  See the full listing here.

Citizens Union is hiring a Communications & Public Affairs Manager and a Development & Membership Associate.  Find more information here.