Before I went AWOL for two weeks, my former colleague Steve Heath, now president of United Way California Capitol Region, offered this in response to my wondering-via-post about whether quotations are really most likely to be picked up in this era of online search (as suggested by one expert)… or whether only quotations from credible sources receive that kind of attention. Steve’s storied (he might say sordid) career includes many years as PR exec for several very large organizations.
“Sort of a no-brainer: the higher the profile of the “credible source,” the more likely for a journalist to pick up the quote. But that’s irrelevant for most nonprofits. Most of the nation’s 1.7 million nonprofits are local, relatively low-budget operations that don’t have access to high-profile, nationally recognized “credible sources” to quote in news releases. Neither do most of us really have as much trend data as some might think. The smaller the nonprofit, the less the likelihood that any kind of meaningful trend data is being tracked; most are lucky if they can produce a daily stroke tally of phone calls or client visits.
As for trying to piggyback on national issues/trends locally, that often works but the trouble in local media markets is that getting any kind of media attention is becoming increasingly difficult because the available “news hole” has shrunk so significantly. Not even a newspaper the size of the Sacramento Bee has a reporter tasked with covering philanthropy or nonprofits any more.
So, most nonprofits should produce news releases that are written to attract searches by the “ultimate target audience” (i.e. current and potential donors) rather than just by the media itself. Why? There are many more members of the “ultimate target audience” out there searching the Web than there are members of the media. So, assuming that the nonprofit is smart enough to post its news releases on its own website (amazingly, many do not), the information in news releases is far more likely to get readership directly from “ultimate target audience” web searches than from the media web searches. And that’s not all bad, either. News releases, like paid advertising, are controlled messages not subject to reporters’ interpretation. So if we can get the right key words into the news releases, they will have pretty good readership even if they never appear in a newspaper.”