Media relations in the world of social media have changed dramatically.
While it is still important to keep in touch with the so-called "main stream media," especially your local reporters, that is no longer sufficient.
With the reduced number of people in newsrooms across the media landscape, even reporters are looking for better ways to keep up, and nonprofits must now spread word of their good deeds through new social media tools.
A report by The Hatcher Group cited a survey of 4,000 U.S. journalists which revealed that 71% of them have a list of blogs that they check on a regular basis. By connecting with those bloggers that cover the nonprofit sector, you increase your chances of being found by other media.
Of course, getting into a blog has its own rewards, since nearly 100 million Americans read them at least once a month. Technorati, a blog search engine, lists more than a million blogs.
Luckily, you don't have to keep up with all of them. Start with locating blogs in the nonprofit arena, and then narrow your search depending on the issues most important to your nonprofit. Here are some places where you can search for appropriate blogs:
Once you find the blogs that you think might be interested in information from your nonprofit, follow them through RSS, on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. You can gradually winnow your blog list as you decide which blogs are really relevant to your issues.
Pitching Your Story to a Blogger
The same rules of pitching to any media apply to bloggers, with some major caveats. Besides being newsworthy, your pitch must be personal. That is, be sure to read the blog for a while before you pitch the blogger. Too many people simply look up a list of relevant blogs and start sending out press releases.
Bloggers are very sensitive about this. They don't like canned material and certainly don't look favorably on those who don't even read their blogs.
Here are some tips for pitching bloggers:
- Don't be tricky. Identify yourself and your organization. Make your contact transparent and straightforward. After you narrow your list of relevant blogs, you might want to send an email introducing yourself and your nonprofit, with links to some relevant information on your website. This would be a very soft pitch to begin the process of building a relationship.
- Get to know the blogger and his/her interests. Read the blog for a while to get an idea of what interests him. Does the blogger have a larger website? Explore that too. Comment on some relevant posts, but don't pitch a blogger through the comments. Keep the focus on the issue being discussed.
- Make your pitch timely. There is a very short news cycle online. Send any embargoed releases ahead of time, and respond to breaking news stories immediately if you have relevant information to share or an expert on the issue or event.
- Treat bloggers as individuals. Don't blast emails to many bloggers at once. Take the time to personalize your contacts with the blogger's name and a personal comment referencing the blog. Show that you read the blog and know what the blogger finds relevant.
- Link to bloggers. Links are the currency of the Internet and all bloggers want them and need them. When a blogger writes about something that your readers might be interested in, link to it from your blog, Facebook page, Google+ profile, or retweet it. You'll make fast friends fast.
Using Twitter to Reach Bloggers
Some nonprofits still are not convinced that Twitter, the micro-blogging tool, is of any use to them. It's true that fundraising via Twitter is in its infancy, and many of your supporters may not be there either.
But bloggers and reporters are on Twitter. A writer with the Huffington Post admitted that he never looks at his RSS reader any more. He monitors Twitter for story ideas, news, and sources.
Think of Twitter as a way to get your story out to media influencers and to find those influencers. Don't worry about getting swamped with trivia. If you use Twitter professionally and carefully choose who to follow, you're likely to find mostly useful information.
You can also Tweet about what is going on at your organization. Maybe you have some research that you'd like people to know about, have an event coming up, you've reached your fundraising goal, or you are using volunteers in a new and innovative way.
Here are some best practices for Twitter (again from the Hatcher report):
- Create a professional-looking background for your Twitter profile. You can tweet as an individual or as your organization.
- If you have a blog, consider using a service such as TwitterFeed to automatically send your blog posts to Twitter.
- Stay active and engaged with your followers on Twitter. Write tweets that link to your own content, but also look for opportunities to retweet the content of others...especially those bloggers covering your subject area.
- Look for people and organizations on Twitter that matter to your nonprofit. Maybe they are legislators, advocates, media outlets, bloggers, consultants, and other nonprofits that are similar to yours.
- Use Twitter search to find out who to follow and when you do follow someone, check out who they follow. Follow a lot at the beginning. Gradually, people will start following you.
Magnify your message. If you are not using these social media tools, start now. Persevere through the learning curve, and you will be richly rewarded.