Media relations have always been an important part of nonprofit marketing and communications. Unfortunately, they can easily become lost in a jumble of responsibilities and not given the attention they need.

A recent project at work led me to start paying more attention to media relations.  Over the past few weeks, I spent time sorting and archiving our old news clippings, dating as far back as 1960. In doing so, I realized that we used to be covered by newspapers and other publications all the time. Unfortunately, that frequency has decreased over the years.

The entire project made me think – Am I not doing my job? Should I be pitching more stories? Should I be working with different media outlets? It’s an issue that many nonprofits face and it’s important to ask what’s changing – media relations or the media landscape? And how can nonprofits navigate these changes?

Media relations are changing

In the past, media relations seemed simple. Nonprofits could submit a press release to the paper and see their story published right away. They could call the TV station and have a crew cover their event the next day. But things are definitely different today. It is now often up to the nonprofit to develop a partnership with reporters. This partnership means helping the reporter cover both the organization and the issue. Nonprofits also need to make their experts available to speak about their issue. And with so many nonprofits focused on the same issues, competition for coverage is steep.

Media outlets are changing

Changes in media outlets are also impacting nonprofits. Reporters have become backpack journalists, expected to conduct interviews and write stories, and take photos and videos that translate well online. Media outlets have adapted to a 24-hour news cycle and are using channels like Twitter and blogs to distribute the news. For reporters, this means finding a way to produce quality content at a faster pace. And for nonprofits, it means finding a way to keep up.

The challenges for nonprofits

All of these changes present challenges for nonprofits. They have to work even harder to pitch the media, even if it means ditching press releases and trying other methods. Even worse, stories that used to be newsworthy may no longer be worth a reporter’s time and energy. This often leads to less coverage. Many nonprofits are also putting less emphasis on traditional media relations and more on digital channels such as email and social media.

The opportunities for nonprofits

At the same time, changes in media relations and media outlets present some benefits for nonprofits. Nonprofits now have access to additional forms of media beyond big papers, radio, and television. New media outlets such as blogs, podcasts and YouTube shows help nonprofits reach more targeted audiences and increase engagement. They present opportunities to share content that may not be seen as newsworthy in traditional media outlets.

With all of these changes, nonprofits are left with a lot to think about. Here are some questions to consider:

  • In what ways can we as nonprofit communicators benefit from the changing media landscape?
  • How can we continue to receive quality coverage by the right media outlets?
  • What changes, if any, should we make to our media relations strategies?
  • How have we handled changes in the media landscape and media relations up to this point? How will we handle changes going forward?

Let’s talk about media relations and the changing media landscape during the March #NPMC Twitter chat

What questions do you have about the changes in media relations and the media landscape? What information will help you to build stronger relationships with the media and continue to gain valuable media coverage? Please join the next #NPMC Twitter chat to share your questions and ideas on Thursday, March 26 at 1:00 p.m. ET. Follow the #NPMC hashtag on Twitter.

Kelly Rembold

Kelly Rembold

Marketing Specialist at Lark Enterprises, Inc.
Kelly Rembold is a nonprofit marketing and communications professional with a passion for storytelling. She is the sales and communication director at Kon-O-Kwee Spencer YMCA, a year-round YMCA camp in Fombell, PA, that offers summer programs, group retreats, and environmental education. Kelly has a background in journalism, and has previously worked as a reporter and editorial assistant for newspapers in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Kelly Rembold