How to get your charity covered by the media

Tim Arthur, Creative Director at Virgin Money, gives us his six-point plan for the perfect way to get the media talking about your charity

Tim Arthur is a man who knows how to get the word out in the media. Before taking on his current role as Creative Director of Virgin Money, he worked as CEO of media company Time Out, as a BBC radio presenter and as Managing Director of the homeless charity Cardboard Citizens. Here Tim lines up his six-point plan for how charities can spread the word, no matter how big their budget.


1 Look for opportunities

People want to support charities and it’s important that you utilise this goodwill and find an excuse for them to cover you. A good place to start is with the seasons. Alcohol Concern’s Dry January gets a great deal of press coverage by cleverly using the time of the year when people are making resolutions to spread its message. Meanwhile, Crisis was borne out of the season of goodwill and Christmas remains at the heart of their message. So look for obvious links between events or times of year and your cause.

If there is no obvious link, then it’s worth considering the power of the pun. Look at Movember and Stoptober. Knowing a campaign will be happening at a particular time also helps TV, radio and press reporters plan a story well in advance. And finally, do make sure you’re also prepared to be reactive to current events and new developments.

2 Think pics

It doesn’t matter if you’re dealing with Facebook, your local paper or The Times – a good picture makes all the difference. Make it easy for people to spread your message by having a variety of good quality, high resolution pictures ready to go. Ideally you should host these on a clearly-marked press centre on your site so that a stressed picture editor working late can grab them easily. It’s amazing how many stories get spiked because there’s no picture available. Also make sure you think about something which will ‘pop’, especially on social media – something surprising, quirky or amusing or arresting will always get more shares than something any other charity might use. Obviously you should be sensitive to your cause, but don’t be afraid to stand out. There’s no place for shrinking violets. Use images and titles that make people stop in their tracks.

3 Listen up

Radio remains one of the most powerful ways of getting your message across. There’s a natural trust between presenters and their audience and local stations in particular are always looking for good stories. Take the time to discover who is producing your favourite talk shows and contact them with your ideas. Make your pitch brief: just one or two really good paragraphs about the story you want to tell. Make it personal and relatable. Most radio stations are desperate for listeners to call in, so offer a potential subject that the host could throw out to the audience and encourage them to call in with their opinion.

4 Know your audience

Understand who you want to hear your message and have a clear idea of the single action you want them to take. Do you want money? Are you raising awareness? Choose the media outlet which is most likely to speak to that audience. Don’t send blanket press releases to everyone in your Press and PR contacts list. Tell the features editors or news editors why you think their specific readers or listeners will want to hear the story you’ve got to tell and think of the way each different magazine, newspaper, radio or TV show might want to tell that story and tailor your offer to them. Use language and tone appropriate to the audience you’re talking to and to the channel you’re talking to them through. Social media is ‘social’ – more relaxed and conversational. The Times is… well The Times. You get the idea.

5 a The media love statistics and new research

Did you know eight in every ten men have never…

People in Kent are five times more likely to…

The women of Newcastle have the highest levels of…

Think of doing research which brings your cause to life in interesting and quirky ways which are easy for a stressed feature editor to turnaround into a clickbait style piece.

5 b The media hate statistics…

There’s nothing worse than dry statistics. A lot of the time numbers are easy to ignore. However, it’s impossible to ignore a beautifully told story about one person. Don’t generalise. Make it about people. Make people care by appealing to their emotions. Don’t do it in a crass or prurient way. Don’t be overly earnest. Be human and compassionate in your storytelling and let your passion for your charity pour out of every word.

6 Approach people nicely

“Remember people like you, so like them back. Know the name of the person you are sending your idea to (no ‘Dear editor’). Flatter their work (‘I loved your recent piece on…’). Don’t send them something generic. Give them a unique angle that’s right for them. Grab their attention. Keep it short. Offer all the access they need. And then follow up politely – don’t pester, give it three emails before you call.

Download our takeaway

Download The Knowledge Takeaway – Knowledge Takeaway – perfect pitch email to the media – and keep it handy for when you want to engage the Press with your story.

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