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We're Trying to Do Good But Got No Response:  Publicity Dilemma 3

by Marcia Yudkin

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Published on this site: April 13th, 2009 - See more articles from this month

"We have a worthy cause, but our press releases about it aren't getting picked up anywhere," says one of my subscribers. "What else can we do to get media coverage?"

When a plain old press release doesn't attract media interest in your cause, it's time to inject the outreach for your do-good project with one or more of the following ingredients.

Five Irresistible Publicity Elements for Non-profits:

  1. A photogenic scene: Your news item transforms from dull to dazzling when you think up a way to inject children, puppies, chocolate, dance, puppets, balloons or angry protesters into the mix. Color, action, comedy and cuteness all help attract cameras and pensters alike. Stay away from clichés like shovels at a groundbreaking or oversized checks being handed from a sponsor to a charity.

  2. A challenge: Suspense or drama is the second ingredient that helps attract the media. This might take the form of a contest (who will win?), an attempt to break a record (such as the world's biggest potluck dinner), a surprising comeback attempt (septuagenarians for Saturn High) or a fundraising wilderness trek (combating snakes, swamps and no sense of direction). And yes, publicity stunts still work.

  3. A heartwarming story: Crown your "poster child" - a person, family, animal or place that embodies a feel-good story, about a triumph over adversity, a homecoming, opposites coming together, enemies reconciling, unlikely devotion or an amazing talent. Instead of issuing a dry, factual recital about your cause, entice the media with an emotional tale. Whatever tugs at the heartstrings has an excellent chance of capturing media attention, too.

  4. A holiday tie-in: Holidays include not just Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's but also Mother's Day, Veteran's Day, Martin Luther King Day, Passover, Earth Day and Labor Day. Many times a year, media people have to fill up pages or airtime with holiday-related stories that they would rather not come across as exactly the same as the previous year's or as their competitor's holiday-related stories. Create a connection between your cause and a holiday or season of the year, and you are helping the media do their job. And did you know you can create your own holiday? Simply choose a day of the year, come up with a name for the day, write up a blurb about your idea and submit it to Chase's Calendar of Events, a standard reference book found in most libraries. That always seems to give your holiday an official status that makes the media want to share it with the public.

  5. Star power: In my community, any Hollywood great showing up shoots to the top of the news. For instance, the news that actress Kathleen Turner was going to headline a fundraiser for a local movie house that specializes in presenting independent films got front-page treatment, and will indubitably do so again when the event occurs. (Turner's daughter attends a local college.) Can you pull strings to get the governor or an Olympic record holder to appear? Or maybe you can rustle up a dead celebrity in the form of an autograph or painted portrait going on the block at your charity auction.

The more you understand about what the media are constantly on the lookout for, the more easily you are invited into the media spotlight. With a little imagination and initiative, it's a manageable challenge.

Marcia Yudkin: Is the author of 6 Steps to Free Publicity, Persuading on Paper, Web Site Marketing Makeover and eight other books.  She has engineered coverage for herself or her company in the Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, Success, Women in Business and dozens of newspapers around the world. Get free access to a one-hour audio recording in which she answers the most common questions about getting media coverage at

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