Increasing Your Organization’s Visibility
Your nonprofit formed to accomplish a set of goals, fulfill its mission, and make a difference on local issues. One of the keys to accomplishing your goals is community support. To keep your organization on a successful course, you need to maintain strong visibility and advertise your organization’s success. Effectively promoting your organization’s achievements will help the public view your group as a leader in the community working on their behalf. Without strong publicity to promote your work, your organization will have more difficulty achieving its goals and reaching its full potential.
The media (both online and in print) is a great tool to promote your group. Some common promotional tools to advertise your organization’s work include newsletters, your website, social media, community events, press releases, media advisories, press conferences, letters to the editor, opinion editorials, and interviews. All of these mediums help to promote your organization, keeping it afloat and carrying it forward to achieve its goals.
Use your organization’s website, social media pages, print newsletter, or online newsletter to post a calendar of events, list of programs, and current issues. In today’s world, online postings can be particularly effective, and there are many free options for getting your organization’s name out on the web. In many cases, the internet is the first place people turn when they want to find out information about a cause or organization, so it’s crucial to cultivate an online presence. Facebook and Twitter are popular free social media sites where you can advertise your organization and your work to potential constituents. There are also sites that will allow you to build free websites (Wix.com, Weebly.com, etc.), which are a wonderful way to show your target audience that you have a presence in your watershed and to showcase the work that you are doing. If you are not familiar or comfortable with managing online media, consider hiring an intern or volunteer to assist you. Many high school and college students have strong web/social media skills and would love to be able to have your organization on their resume.
Start by focusing on your membership to increase their awareness about your organization and its work. Target your membership through your website and newsletter. Also consider developing a membership e-mail list to keep your members abreast of current happenings and programs within your organization. Highlight community issues your group is tackling as well.
Press releases are another means to get the message out and can fulfill two purposes. The first is volunteer recruitment, since press releases both generate interest in a project or event and include details on how to participate. The second purpose is to publicize events after they occur (journalists often use releases as foundations for articles). Be sure to include contact information, as reporters may wish to speak with you further if they have questions or need more information.
Media advisories are also brief documents, but they are designed to notify the press of upcoming community events to encourage full media coverage (print and photo). Like press releases, media advisories provide the who, what, where, when, and why of a program or project, but generally do not include schedules of future projects.
To assist in getting started, compile the following resources:
- List of local media contacts. Developing and maintaining a current list of media contacts is helpful when submitting press releases and media advisories and holding press conferences. Update this list every few months to keep it current.
- Printed materials, such as newsletters, brochures, and fact sheets, that detail your organization’s mission and programs, to be used at community events.
- Display board with photos representing all of your programs, for community events.
As you begin to work with the media, build and maintain working relationships with reporters and print journalists. Maintaining a positive relationship can benefit your organization when submitting press releases and media advisories.
Always remember to thank the board for their time and attention.
Being a good listener is just as important as being a good speaker. Come to a public hearing with an open mind, and be an active listener. It is important to hear all sides of the debate and really understand other opinions and messages so you can form your own response.
- Community Toolbox. This series, from the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program, provides tips on press releases, press conferences, and more.
- Green Media Toolshed. Use this site for information on the media, including how to write an effective media advisory and press release.
- Getting in Step: A Guide for Conducting Watershed Outreach Campaigns & Getting in Step: Engaging Stakeholders in Your Watershed are guidebooks from the Environmental Protection Agency. Provides guidance for creating awareness, educating specific audiences, and motivating positive behavior change to improve water quality.
- Managing the Media: A Guide for Activists by Carol Fennelly, from The Community for Creative Non-Violence. Handbook dedicated to handling the media, creating a press event, public service announcements, developing relationships with the media, and more.
- River Talk! Communicating a Watershed Message, available from the River Network. Presents information on developing a communications plan for your watershed organization.