May 2015
Communications & public relations advice for nonprofits                                                                                                                                                                                                

  Brought to you by your friends at Anat Gerstein, Inc.  


Reporters' Top Pet Peeves



It's Burger Week! Combat counterfeit sports-related merchandise! Enjoy a new children's adventure book!


These are just some of the pitches that landed in the inbox of a prominent reporter in New York City over the past week.


The problem: the reporter covers education issues.


"I get a lot of pitches that are sent to me like spam," the feisty reporter said. "They have no idea what I do for a living. They're just sending me a press release about something ridiculous."


That reaction was tame compared to those from other media folks when we made a brief request this past week: Tell us your pet peeves about PR folks.


They did not hold back.


In this newsletter, we share some responses (salty language removed!) and offer a few takeaways. Our hope is that this exercise helps you improve your pitching so that you get the right stories covered by the right reporters at the right outlets.


Here we go...


"My biggest problem with PR people nowadays is that they don't know or don't bother to research who they are pitching to," said one television planner. She noted that her inbox is littered with pitches such as "'I'd like to book an "In-Studio Segment" for your 4 or 5 o'clock show' - which means they don't watch the broadcasts to know we don't do in-studio segments like cooking demos or book authors."


Another television expert added, "[f]or PR people, know your audience. Do some homework. Don't pitch me a Valentine's Day cupcake-baking guest if I host a political talk show."


Takeaway: Watch the shows before you pitch them. Get to know their format and segment preferences.


One television reporter indicated his distaste for "[w]hen people pitch having no clue how we work: 'I'm writing to book a guest on your morning show.' What morning show? For your readers? We are TV. I can go on for hours..."


Another television reporter said that, when pitching her, don't write: "Can we talk about a possible article for your newspaper?"


Takeaway: Know the difference between print, radio, online, and television. Refine pitches for each media type.


Continue reading their pet peeves at our NonprofitTalk Tumblr blog.


Branding on a Budget

The following guest column by Anat Gerstein was published in New York Nonprofit Media on May 18th.

If your organization is like a lot of small (and not so small) groups, branding may fall by the wayside. You may be thinking: I don't have the staff or the money to take on a branding project. 

Branding is not something you should push aside. Your brand tells people who you are and differentiates you from others doing similar work. A good brand makes a great first impression--helping you connect with potential donors and funders, elected officials, volunteers, and other stakeholders.

Basic branding includes: your visual identity--the organization's name, logo, and design; messaging, including a tagline; and a plan to get the brand and messaging seen by target audiences. You can read the full column here.

Pitching Notes: Jarrett Murphy, 
Executive Editor and Publisher, City Limits

Jarrett Murphy has been with City Limits since February 2007. A native of New Britain, CT, he graduated from Fordham University in The Bronx, and later earned a diploma in public financial policy from the London School of Economics and a master's in economics from The New School. He previously worked at WFUV-AM, the Hartford Advocate,, and the Village Voice. He plays with the Lansdowne Rugby Football Club, is a Little League coach, and plays bass and sings for a rock band called Fort Indy.



What differentiates City Limits? 


We do in-depth and investigative reporting on New York City policy issues with the goal of making the city more just. Other organizations share part of our mission, but no one takes on all of it.


What role does City Limits play in the greater New York City area?


We fill in gaps--covering some issues no one else covers, or doing it deeper if others are covering it lightly, or looking at how an issue affects places like East New York and University Heights if other coverage is focused on Midtown and Park Slope.


You provide a platform for opinions and analysis. What are the elements that make these pieces stand out? 


There's plenty of opinion in the media mix today, so we like our op-ed pieces to skip the shouting and get into facts, principles, and nuances--to respect our audience's intelligence and display the author's depth of knowledge. I'd rather a wonky, 1,200-word piece that really makes people think than one that just takes sides in a screaming match.


What stories involving nonprofits most intrigue you?  


Ones where the advocates and organizers have really done their homework and speak fluently about the complexity of the issues. And ones where we can read about a new twist on an old story. City Limits was founded primarily to cover poverty and income inequality and their effects. So our meta story is an old one and we have to be wary of audience fatigue. If a nonprofit has found a way to take a fresh angle on an old problem, that gives us an excuse to revisit that larger, ongoing narrative without seeming terribly predictable to our readers.


What advice do you have for folks who want to submit an opinion piece? 

Send an idea before you write, because I might be able to provide some advice on scope, angle, or timing that makes my accepting and publishing the piece more likely. Also, assume your audience is pretty wonky and fairly savvy, and tailor your research and arguments accordingly.


What is a common mistake people make when pitching you?


I run a nonprofit, and most people in my circle of friends work for one--so I really respect and admire that work. But I'm not in the promotion business, because my readers' attention span is a scarce thing and I need to use it well. So I can't run an op-ed or story that's just about how great an organization or its program is. We need to work in the self-referential stuff subtly while discussing a larger problem and/or solution, so that the article has value to someone other than your trustees and funders (or mine).


How should people reach you or a City Limits colleague to pitch a story?

Email me at And if I don't respond within 24 hours, email me again. I might say no, but I always want to say something. 

You can also follow Jarrett on Twitter or LinkedIn.





Anat Gerstein, Inc. is a full-service communications firm that works exclusively with nonprofits, big and small. Our clients represent a range of organizations, including social service, health care, education, and youth service groups; cultural, arts, and theater institutions; business and community development nonprofits; advocacy organizations; and foundations.

We specialize in helping nonprofits build brand recognition and reputation, and deepen and expand stakeholder relationships and partnerships. All of our work is focused on assisting organizations to reach their goals, including increased fundraising, volunteerism, client recruitment, attendance and participation, and furthering an advocacy agenda.


We currently work with 14 nonprofit organizations on a retainer basis--providing them with year-round services ranging from media relations to functioning as their outsourced communications department. We also work with nonprofits on a project basis.  


To find out more, visit:


If you want to learn more about how we can help your organization, contact Anat Gerstein at 718-793-2211, ext. 100, or


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