5 Ways to Get More Publicity through Your Nonprofit CEO or Top Leaders, Part 1

Frequently, the most visible promoter of a nonprofit is the president or chief operating officer, though getting them good publicity is not always an easy task. Still, their presence often embodies the image that many donors and clients have of the organization, and a nonprofit can make itself more visible simply by highlighting that presence. This post will deal with print and broadcast opportunities. Part 2 will focus on online avenues.

First, it is necessary to determine what your organization would like to say and how it wants to say it. What do you want people to think are your strengths? Finding a topic in the public eye, one that your organization and chief executive knows well as a bonafide subject matter expert, is the first step in showcasing the president.

Take a look at your organization’s and president’s background to pick a topic. Does his or her resume include activities that are in the spotlight in your industry or in the public’s eye? What did he or she learn that would be helpful to someone else going through the same experience?

Let me give an example that’s close to home. InChrist Communications President Palmer Holt was deeply involved in helping our client, SIM USA, navigate the 2015 Ebola crisis when it dominated the nation’s attention. Today, he gives conference presentations on crisis communications, detailing the steps that organizations need to take to be prepared.

Once a topic is chosen, there are many opportunities to showcase the head of a nonprofit. Here are 5 ideas:

#1 Speaking engagements:

A speaking opportunity can showcase your organization’s expertise to a fresh audience, build the brand and present a chance to network with a new group.

Look for opportunities to speak at national industry conferences and locally at regional faith-based conferences and conventions. A little research will uncover appropriate conferences, along with information about how to secure a speaking opportunity.

#2 Bylined articles:

An easy way to showcase an organization is to place an article written by the president or pastor in a local, niche or national publication. Typically, such articles provide an opportunity to showcase the organization’s expertise by demonstrating its knowledge on a topic of interest to the audience.

Again, a little research should turn up a list of several publications that would be interested in running an article. Most local and national business publications also run a series of special sections that focus on particular topics.

While most will probably not provide an appropriate home for an article from a faith-based organization, an astute researcher can still find good opportunities there.

It may even be possible to write an op-ed opinion piece for a major newspaper if the subject matter is topical enough. A word about op-eds: They are great opportunities to create an image of your president as a thought leader, but they tend to deal with more controversial topics. They often require the author to stick their neck out a bit, and their length, at 800 words, requires careful reflection and a clear thought process to get accepted by a major newspaper.

The Internet also hosts dozens of online news sites that welcome bylined articles. (More about this in Part 2.)

#3 Awards:

While media exposure is a solid method to gain broader recognition, winning an award also can give an organization and its leadership added credibility to its key audiences. An award amounts to a third-party endorsement of your organization’s efforts, and even minor mentions are viewed positively by key audiences.

There are many organizations that give out awards, including trade publications, state and trade organizations and niche groups, like Best Christian Workplaces, http://www.bcwinstitute.com/. The wide range of awards also makes it possible to apply to groups that extend beyond faith-based activities. For example, winning an award for Best Employer in a local business publication suggests to key audiences that your approach represents Christian values at work in the office.

It usually takes some time to find a list of awards worth applying for, but winning has ancillary benefits beyond initial bragging rights. An award announcement doesn’t generally generate much third-party publicity unless it is one given out by a publication, but it adds credibility to a web page and merits an email to supporters, both actual and potential.

#4 Lists:

Getting named to a Top 10 list has similar benefits to winning an award. It tells your audiences that your work is admired by a third party and is worth mentioning in outreach to potential supporters.

#5 Relationships:

Finally, one of the most direct – and time consuming – ways to gain greater exposure is to create relationships with local and industry reporters who cover your field. Even if you have nothing that might qualify as ‘news’ to a reporter, it is still possible to be regularly featured in news articles.

Here’s how: After a reporter writes a story about a topic within your area of expertise, have your president or pastor call the reporter to talk about the story. Comment positively, then offer additional insight from your organization’s perspective. The call should be conducted in a conversational tone, after first determining that the reporter is not working on deadline. Most reporters are open to hearing from those with knowledge in their field, in particular from those who might be useful as a source for future stories.

Use caution if your organization wants to take this approach. To begin, is your president or pastor verbally nimble enough to deal with a reporter’s darting mind? Are they available to take a call at dinnertime to discuss a late-breaking development? Would they relish, rather than dread, that kind of give-and-take? If so, then this can be a fruitful approach.

Taken together, these avenues provide opportunities to tailor publicity opportunities to take advantage of a president’s or pastor’s personal strengths. A careful mix of these tactics can provide an organization with a fresh, effective approach to garnering additional community and individual support.

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