Use Press Releases to Advertise Your Nonprofit

© frender - Fotolia
© frender – Fotolia
The humble press release has been around longer than the Internet. Because of that, a lot of people think that its time has come and gone, replaced first by blog posts and now by social media. But if they’re done right, press releases fill a niche that other forms of marketing communications can’t quite match, particularly in terms of reaching local media outlets.

But like any form of marketing communication, the effectiveness of a press release depends on understanding what it does best and writing for the correct audience. Here’s what you need to know about press releases to make them work for your nonprofit organization.

Target Specific Recipients

The popular notion of press releases is that they are scattered willy-nilly into the ether through mass mailing and PR sites. Don’t do that! Unlike blog posts and social media, which broadcast to everyone, press releases should target specific outlets. Do the legwork first: contact your local media outlets — newspapers, radio stations, community events websites, hyperlocal news blogs — and ask them who covers the local nonprofit community. And we’re not talking about the people who collect upcoming events to be added to the community calendar here. You’re looking for the people who will see the story potential in your exciting new grant-funded program or the vision of your incoming executive director. Then mail your press releases right to them. Include a cover note, too.

Give Recipients the Story

The purpose of a press release isn’t just to convey information, but to do so in a way that makes an editor’s job easier. That means providing them with print- and broadcast-ready copy that they can easily adapt to fill a hole on a page or a dead spot on the air. Write it like a news story, and include one or two choice quotes. Cover the classic “who, what, when, where, why, and how” with succinct, clear, readable prose. Practice reading it out loud using your “radio announcer voice” to see if it sounds like something that could be read over the air. Because it might be!

Include Essential Information

Your press release should have a header with your organization’s logo and full name, and a slogan or tagline if you have one. It should also include the name and contact information of the primary point of contact in case they want to get in touch quickly for more information. At the end of every press release, include a short paragraph of boilerplate language that describes your organization, its activities, and its goals and objectives. All of this information helps recipients understand (or, ideally, remember) your organization and recognize you as a legitimate, authoritative resource.

Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle

Well-written press release content can be reused in other marketing communication products. And that in turn can help you standardize your terminology and build a library of boilerplate language that you can quickly adapt without having to write from scratch every time. If you’re a small shop and you wear multiple hats, that’s an important consideration.

There’s no shortage of templates on the web for designing a press release; pick one, customize it to suit your needs, and stick with it. If you make the content as professional as the design, you will have the marketing communications equivalent of a Swiss Army knife and make the lives of local journalists a lot easier. And that’s a classic win-win.

Author: Paul Lagasse

Paul Lagasse provides expert-to-expert communications services to nonprofit, business, and government clients in the metro Baltimore-DC area. Specialties include science and medical writing, technical report editing, and content marketing.