What To Do When Your Charity’s Marketing Budget is a Lump of Coal

Charity and the holidays go hand in hand. You have to admire people who never waver in their goodwill toward men, organizing events and raising money for various charities all year around.  However, what they so often lack is good marketing and promotion for their events. As chairman of an annual charity golf tournament and a working member of the media, I suppose this puts me in a unique position to chime in on this.

So how do you engage the media’s help when your marketing budget is akin to a lump of coal?

1 Update your media contact list.  If you send info to a media member who doesn’t work there anymore, it won’t be seen. Even if you snail mail it, it will be seen as out of date and not worth reading.  I still get the odd letter from charities that are addressed to a colleague who passed away many years ago.  It doesn’t exactly present the caring image most charities shoot for.

2 Don’t approach this as if it’s the media’s social responsibility to help you.  Some people actually do this.  Your event – while important to you – is not a priority to the media.  You’re asking for a favour.  Communicate accordingly.

3 Write your advisory. Make it professional and clean. Most of all, it should be brief.  When I receive charity event info, it must be concise or I will set it aside. Get to your key points as quickly as possible – then include your website. Send your info out well in advance to plant the seed. Send further updates or reminders closer to the event. Request help via social media platforms which are often more flexible.

4 If you believe your cause or event is newsworthy, be sure to communicate the value of your story to news departments.  This is powerful stuff. For example, Toy Mountain is a Salvation Army program in Ottawa that brings in toys for needy kids at Christmas.  Donations were way down this year until CTV Ottawa did a story about their toy deficit. They had record donations the next day.

Sorry. Wrong list of 12.

6 Provide info that will make both the media and the public react or get excited.  If it doesn’t grab me, then I will predict it won’t grab my listeners, viewers or readers.  What makes your event stand out? Is it a celebrity? Can the media interview that celebrity?  Set it up!  Do you have a special prize?  A gift?  How does your event pull at the heart strings?

7 Treats can do the trick. For example, morning radio generally gets the most listeners and has the most time to fill. Its hosts are often sleep-deprived, hungry and sometimes not that well paid. Imagine how well your event’s info will be received if you send your information over with some coffee and food. Give the hosts or their promo department free tickets to give away on air.

8 Follow up with a friendly phone call. If you know someone who knows a media member, then use that. Have them make the contact. It’s these connections that can lead to full media sponsorships. Invite an important media member to sit on your committee. Invite them to participate.

9 Attend other charity events that already have a big media presence. This can be an excellent place to connect with key media people. If they’re supporting and promoting that charity event, there’s a good chance they may support yours too.

10 Get your event on twitter and follow local media members. Then ask the local media members, particularly the ones participating, to retweet your event. Go on facebook and “like” the media’s page.

11 Have a quarterback. It’s helpful if the same friendly face connects with the media each year. Relationships foster a willingness to help.

12 Don’t forget to say thank you. Lay the groundwork for next year. Send a photo of the event, ideally featuring your media person, they can tweet out or post on their facebook the next day.

Happy Holidays and good luck with your charity event in 2014!

Author Steve Warne
Electric Medialand contributor
Writer and Morning Radio Host (team1200.com)

Comments (1)
  • GMac

    December 23, 2013

    There you have it: a micro MBA in event promotion. Great post and sage advice, Steve. Amazing how far manners and putting skin into the game can take you.

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