Advice for Nonprofits: Ask and You Shall Receive

Technology Concepts 1As I help nonprofits improve their public relations and social media efforts, I’m struck by the fact that, regardless of size or mission, they often ask similar questions. I’m sure other groups have similar questions, which is why I’m excited to start this new PRBC series, which aims to answer nonprofits’ most burning questions.

Question: I’m having trouble establishing tangible goals & objectives in regards to media measurement for my non-profit organization. I’ve gotten stories placed in the paper or on local tv & radio stations in the past, but that was reactive, nothing strategically planned. Any advice?

Answer: I think this is the age-old question that many PR people struggle with! 🙂

There are two schools of thinking: measuring outputs or outcomes. Outputs measures the number of clips you place, how many column inches you secure, etc. Outcomes measures the impact of the media placements. So, did your proactive media relations efforts help increase donations, volunteer hours, etc? Obviously, you can’t tie one clip to an specific jump in donations; instead you’re looking more broadly at the communication effort as a whole — media placements, speaking engagements, isssue advocacy, etc.

As a nonprofit that has never tackled measurement, perhaps you could start start by measuring a mix of outputs and outcomes. It’s a lot easier to measure outputs. For example:

  • Secure 10 positive media placements in the next 6 months.
  • Generate positive media coverage in at least 5 different media outlets/publications in the next 6 months.

While that’s pretty straightforward, you don’t know if those media placements are doing the organization any good. That’s why I also recommend measuring outcomes. Can you approach your development team about setting a joint increased-donations goal, or work with your volunteer coordinator to identify a need?

Then, you could establish objectives like this:

  • Secure 4 clips in the next 6 months tied to volunteering for [organization] and the need for additional volunteers.
  • Generate 5 positive media placements that convey our organization’s need for additional monetary donations in the next year.
  • Increase traffic to our website by XX% year-over-year.

Once you’ve established these objectives (and gotten managemenet’s buy-in), then you can begin proactively pitching the media on the types of stories that will help you achieve the objectives. So, for example, if one of your objectives is tied to increasing volunteer hours, perhaps you can pitch a local magazine on a feature story about a resident who is a long-time volunteer. Or, maybe you have a cool story about a mom and a daughter who have both volunteered for your organization … something along those lines. You’ll have to work closely with the other people in your organization to uncover these story angles, but when you do, you’ll be amazed at how much media coverage you can garner.

* * *

That was my answer. What would you add to help this nonprofit start measuring media relations?

Got questions you’d like answered in the “Advice for Nonprofits” series? Email them to blog [at] gebencommunication.com.

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  • Good thoughts, Heather, and distinction between outputs and outcomes. I see a similar balance in measuring social media — we need to provide clients some specific, measurable objectives (these usually involve numbers or percentages we're aiming to achieve) and some more qualitative, brand reputation objectives.

    In the scenario you described above, the non-profit could add a text box or drop-down to its online donation form and a question to it's call script asking donors how they heard about the organization. Could ask similar question of volunteers. Might help tie action more concretely back to media.

    @jgoldsborough

  • heatherwhaling

    Justin, that's a great tip. Thanks for the suggestion!