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Joanne Fritz

Earthquake Brings National Attention to Zoo in D.C.

By August 26, 2011

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Someone was on their toes at the National Zoo in D.C. right after this week's earthquake.

I'm sure you saw more than one news outlet cover how the animals at the zoo reacted to the quake, from apes climbing to higher places, lemurs setting up an alarm well before the quake, and how the implacable pandas seemed to ignore the event altogether.

The zoo sent out a press release, and the media climbed all over it.

It's not the first time wildlife keepers have seen the news value in their animals during a natural disaster or that reporters have gone looking for such material. National Geographic wrote about the animal response before the Indonesian tsunami.

Nevertheless, animals never cease to intrigue humans, and in the case of the east coast earthquake, when no one was hurt, the animal antics provided some welcome comic relief.

What is most important here is the reminder that nonprofit organizations, that sometimes bemoan the lack of "news," with a little creativity and quick thinking, can find ways to attract positive media attention.

Ragan's PR Daily included the zoo story in its article, How to use a press release to get great coverage when you don't have any news, and Karen Zapp used the east coast earthquake as impetus to remind us to Act Immediately to Shake Up Your Nonprofit Publicity.

You don't even have to send out a press release to alert the press that you have an expert who can comment on a current event, or how your clients have been affected by the latest political issue. A phone call to local newspapers and TV stations can do a lot.

In the case of the National Zoo, they probably did make some calls, but the press release sent the news to a wider circle and it provides great SEO for its website newsroom.

It's a cliche, but the early bird really does get the worm, so get up early, check out the news, and act swiftly to take advantage of breaking news to add to your organization's public image. This is how household names are created, even in the nonprofit world.

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Photo: Ailuropoda melanoleuca, Wolong, China/Getty Images

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