Good news DOES sell…
You just need to be able to sell it to journalists and editors first.
The age-old adage that good news doesn’t sell and isn’t of interest to journalists is not true, charities were told at the launch event for Becky Slack’s new book, Effective Media Relations for Charities – What journalists want and how to deliver it.
During a debate with Keir Mudie (Trinity Mirror), Hannah Fearn (The Independent) and Ashitha Nagesh (The Metro), chaired by CharityComms Director Vicky Browning at the book launch event it became clear that journalists are not always looking for bad news. In fact, they would be happy to share more uplifting charitable stories – as long as the story meets their criteria, which includes: being sharable, having a human interest element to it, and if possible being an exclusive.
A recent CharityComms survey found 38% of charities asked perceive there to be a lack of interest from the press in their stories. Keir Mudie from Trinity Mirror explained that that just isn’t the case. Charity staff and journalists are experiencing similar challenges – a lack of time, money, and resources. These challenges, however, can be seen as an opportunity, as Keir explained: “It’s bad news for us, good news for you.” It’s good news for charities because journalists are desperate for good stories! To help charities take advantage of this opportunity Becky Slack has written a book packed full of actionable tips on how best to get your charity more PR.
At the launch event, Becky, Keir, Hannah and Ashitha shared some tips on how charities can get their stories into the papers:
- Be clear on your message and audience
It is important to know what you want to say, to who and why before getting in touch with a journalist. This will help you pitch the story to the journalist and publication that is most suited to your story and target audience. For example, if your story is something that only local people will be interested in you should get in touch with local papers rather than a national publication.
- Focus on the human element
While it is not always easy for charities to put case studies together, especially when working with vulnerable people, they can transform a story. If you are able to put some case studies together it will help make your story more engaging and relevant to readers, and so much more likely to be used by journalists.
- Build relationships with journalists
Relationships with journalists are absolutely key, so while it can take time to establish a good relationship it will be worth it in the long term. If you are a small charity it might be better to focus on one journalist, as a really good relationship with one journalist would be better than an average relationship with two.
The time you call a journalist can make a big difference to the response you receive. It is best to call after midday and before 4.30pm (and it’s best to call journalists rather than desk editors).
Timing is really important to journalists, so it is important you respond to them promptly. Give (with their permission, of course!) your CEO or Policy Manager’s mobile number to journalists. Knowing they can get hold of someone and will get a response quickly will put your charity higher up their list.
- Trust journalists with your stories
You have spent time building up a relationship with a journalist. You have pitched your story to them, and – great news – they are interested in running it! Now you have to trust the journalist with your story. It is understandable that charities want to protect their brand, and it is vital they protect the vulnerable people they work with, but it is important to remember that you cannot control the way your story is told by journalists. Give journalists the information they need and trust them to do their job well.
Keir, Hannah and Ashitha also shared charity stories that have been popular with their audiences recently:
Keir, Trinity Mirror: It’s so cold at home I have to pretend we are all princesses in the film Frozen
Part of their Christmas campaign with Barnados, this case study about a woman and her two daughters pretending to be princesses in the film Frozen because they are so cold got a huge response and led to a lot of support for the campaign.
Hannah, The Independent: Tom Hiddleston in South Sudan: Children deserve a chance of a childhood
This piece by Tom Hiddlestone about South Sudan was read and shared a lot, but don’t worry if you don’t have a celebrity who will write for you – Hannah explained that the story can work just as well if it is written by a front line worker.
Ashitha, The Metro: Here’s how you CAN help homeless people on the streets, by experts
Ashitha explained that people really liked and shared this piece because it was simple, clear and helpful.
Good News Shared’s role
If the papers are willing to share charitable stories does Good News Shared need to exist? We think so. Here’s why..
We started Good News Shared in April 2013 to help charities highlight the positive impact they are having on communities and to give people something uplifting to read. It was great to hear journalists at mainstream publications tell charities that they are interested in their stories, and we really hope more and more uplifting charitable stories will be used by these publications.
There are thousands of charities in the UK alone, and most of them are tiny. We want to give ALL charities a place to share their good news. And we want to give people a place to go where they know they will have something uplifting and inspiring to read. So, if you are a charity and you would like to share your inspiring charitable story via Good News Shared please do send it over, and if you know someone who would love to have a place to go each day for a positivity boost please send them our way!
If you want to learn more about how to get your charity’s stories into the papers I highly recommend Becky’s book, which I have been learning a lot from already.