Earned media: How to pitch to journalists

How do you build the profile of your organisation if you do not have a big marketing budget? A strong social strategy is one way to reach a larger audience if you can’t pay to advertise or promote your content. Another way to build your brand is through ‘earned’ media. Earned media is coverage you generate without paying, through pitching to journalists and getting your organisation on news sites and blogs.

Earned media can have far greater impact any paid promotion or advertising. A profile in a news outlet or on a blog can reach thousands of active readers, and adds significant credibility to your brand. As the name implies, however, you have to earn it. This isn’t always easy: journalists are inundated with emails pitching stories every day, and without a big brand or strong relationship behind you it can be hard to get them to take notice. There are, however, a few ways to help your pitch stand out from the crowd.

If you want a journalist to write about your organisation you have to provide them with a ‘hook’, a newsworthy event or milestone that will be of interest and relevant to their readers (and, more importantly, to the editors who will have to clear all stories first). The launch of a new initiative, a partnership with a notable organisation or a new hire are all potential news hooks, provided you can make them interesting and relevant to the journalist.

Journalists usually get hundreds of emails per day. Especially if it is a cold approach (i.e. if you don’t already know the journalist you are pitching to) they will not be able to spend very much time on yours. For this reason, keep your initial pitch short – very short. As a rough rule of thumb, 3/4 bullet points should be about as much as you send, or two very brief paragraphs.

Lead with the most interesting and eye catching element – don’t ‘bury the lede’. Try also to tailor it to the journalist based on what they’ve covered before, and what they are likely to respond to. If your organisation is focused on climate justice then try to find journalists that cover a climate beat.

If you’ve written a pitch that’s way too long, be ruthless. Cut whatever is not essential to the story, leave only what will most interest the journalist. This may not always be exactly what you most want the journalist to be writing about, but the point of the initial approach is to get them on the hook. Once they are interested you can make the case for why additional elements are newsworthy.

The most important thing to bear in mind is that journalists want to file interesting stories. This may seem obvious, but it is essential to keep it in mind at all times. The fact that your initiative is worthwhile and valuable and you have worked hard to create it will not necessarily make an interesting story. Try to put yourself in the shoes of journalist who will have to sell any story they write to an editor – why is this interesting, why should it get priority over the deluge of competing stories.

While it can be challenging to get right, earned media is certainly a powerful tool to build your brand and amplify your voice.

Evidence based work in the non-profit sector: the perspective of effective altruism.

One of the first questions anyone involved in the charity/NGO sector asks themselves is, what cause do I want to pursue? For some, the answer to this question is clear. They may have already started their own organisation or become involved with an existing institution which is working in a particular cause area because they are driven to pursue a certain cause. Others may just want to do good in the world, but be unsure where or how they can do this best.

It is worthwhile for everyone to ask themselves about the cause they wish to pursue, and to interrogate this question in detail. There are many, many worthwhile causes to pursue, from concrete public health challenges such as fighting malaria to more abstract goals such as tackling loneliness worldwide. However, there are reasons, besides personal feelings, that you may wish to choose one over another. Some require particular human resources but not others, and so you will have the most impact if you go into an area where your skillset is most useful. If you are a doctor, for example, you may have more impact working in an area related to public health in developing world. In other cause areas, on the other hand, monetary resources may be more needed than human ones, and simply donating a portion of your salary may be the best way to make an impact. This has been the case, for example, in fighting malaria, where relatively modest investments simply buying malaria nets have saved countless lives.

When you are thinking about these questions it is worth taking a look at the Effective Altruism movement. This is a global community composed on people who care about doing the most good possible in the world, and takes an evidence-based approach to the charity and non-profit sector. The community has treated the question of what cause you should focus on in incredible detail, and you are unlikely to come across a better resource with which to answer this question.

Baithak isn’t an “EA blog” – there are enough of those out there – but the Effective Altruism movement is one of the best places to start if you want to work out what cause areas are particularly worth focusing on, and how to orientate your big-picture vision on the charity and non-profit space. The Effective Altruist motto of “doing good better” is one we can all get behind, and their analytic approach can really help you to maximise the impact of your efforts to make the world a better place.

 

How to learn more about Effective altruism:

Peter Singer’s TED Talk on Effective Altruism

Online review of William MacAskill’s ‘Doing Good Better’

Introduction to Effective Altruism

Welcome to Baithak

 

Welcome to Baithak, the Justice Adda platform for supporting and providing resources for social enterprises and Non-Governmental Organizations ( NGOs) looking to maximise their positive impact in the world. Through blog posts, articles, interviews and sharing tools from across the web, we hope to make Baithak a space for people who want to improve how they communicate, adopt new ideas for project management, develop strategies to campaign more efficiently and develop  methods to evaluate and sustain their efforts for  positive social change.

We envisage Baithak as a practical space that provides content on topics such as how to write grant applications, how to build communication strategies, how collaborate with government, how to build a vision or  a value proposition ( could you add some more here?).By using our own modest experience in the communications and social enterprise sectors, along with collecting the expertise of people far more knowledgeable than ourselves, we hope to provide useful, accessible content for those who are working to make the world a better place.

The original vision for Baithak as the name suggests in Hindi, grew out of building a space for dialogue to document stories, experiences and lessons of those who have worked and fought for human rights and social justice. The platform intended to  reflect on the triumphs and struggles of these individuals , organisations and communities by providing a space for their stories to be acknowledged, shared and  studied by those aspiring to work in a similar field. However, after extensively studying other platforms and websites, and recognizing the important and valuable work already being done in this regard,  we realise that in order to attempt to create additional value for our audience, we  would instead focus on supporting these very same individuals, organisations and groups by providing  them content, tools and suggestions that will fuel the everyday running of their social enterprises  or NGOs.

Baithak aims to be a democratised space for such discussions and in doing so, aspires to allow for new and fresh perspectives from persons young and old, experts and non- experts, risk takers and those more averse ( add some more?), to come on board and join the conversation. This will allow us to be able to create a forum that offers a plurality of opinions, debates and conversations, one that will make the learning environment for everyone much richer.

Martin Luther King once said that while he admired the Good Samaritan, who stopped on the way to Jericho to aid a beaten and starving man,  this was only a preliminary intervention and he needed to do more. He argued that  he did not want to spend his life helping people by the side of the road. He instead wanted to change the nature of Jericho road itself, so that no one would have to be hurt or go hungry. He thereby rallied those around him to build  interventions aimed at fundamentally addressing the inequalities the plague and challenge us every day.

In a modest way, we  hope  to  provide and learn from  people invested in making a difference, a repository of information, tools and content, to transform their  Jericho road, to be changemakers in the world, and to build  their vision for a better future.  

For this, we have launched Baithak.  We hope you find it useful.

 

(Conor is Editor of Baithak and Siddharth is Founder of Justice Adda)