16 May 2012

All publicity is good publicity - getting free PR

Extra! Extra!  newspaperWhen you start your fundraising activity you'll be giving it your all. So don't let it go unnoticed - maximise your PR (public relations). PR is the language that the media understands, and with a bit of planning and skill you can get free PR for your efforts and your cause. Read on to find out how.

How to plan your PR

  • Decide who you want to get your message out to, e.g. friends, family, colleagues, neighbours, or the local community
  • List the media that reach your audience and that might give you coverage, e.g. local press, radio, parish magazines • Identify contacts at each of these
  • Look at the kind of stories they already cover, their style, and any publication deadlines
  • See if there are any natural opportunities you can piggyback onto; e.g. is your charity launching a new campaign or coming up for an anniversary of some kind? 

What to do next

Ways to grab attention and get your message out there include:

1. A great shop window
Your fundraising page on MyDonate will be seen by all your supporters- so make sure it looks its best before you start shouting about it! There's lots of information about how to do this here.

2. Social media
It's estimated that there are an average 27 million ‘tweets’ a day on Twitter and that people spend around 500 billion minutes every month on Facebook. These social media channels work well to drip-feed your messages and you can also use them to deliver the surprise factor that might just make people think. Maybe use statistics about the problem you're trying to help solve (for example: 'this year as many as 100,000 people in the UK will be living with HIV'), or even inspirational quotes ("We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." - Winston Churchill). Read more about linking to social media.

3. Find others who share your passion
You don't have to go it alone - you might get more support by joining a team - it's easy on MyDonate. Or you can join online discussion groups to link with like-minded charities or fundraisers elsewhere in the country (there's a good list on the Institute of Fundraising site). Then you can share tips on how to raise the most money and maybe even pool contacts to make more people aware of your activity. And it's worth asking your charity to help with publicity on its website.

4. Put yourself out there
Be more visible in your local community. Attend parish council meetings, and put up posters in local shops, libraries and clubs. Offer to speak at any local events your charity holds or to write a column for their website or newsletter. Create your own publicity buzz with fun competitions, raffles, lotteries or lucky dips -just make sure you're on top of the legalities before you begin - take a look at the advice here.

5. Spread your net
There's no harm in asking your current network of supporters to tell, say, five other people they know about what you're doing - so long as they've got the information they might need first.

6. Link with a business
Do a bit of research into local businesses that are sympathetic towards charities - most will advertise the ones they help. Approach ones you think are suitable, give them all the facts about your cause and be clear with them about what you need, like cash, staff time, or advertising. Be clear too about what they'll get from you in return, like their logo on all your fundraising communications. If you do get agreement then be sure that the business is happy for its name to be used in the media and that you have a named contact to deal with in future. Feel free to use our template letter to approach a business.

7. Court the press
It's also vital to do your research here. Identify local journalists that cover community or charity related issues. Read their articles and blogs, and follow them on Twitter before you contact them. Depending on your activity, don't forget the specialised reporters such as the sports or society page editors who might be interested in your event, or the calendar page editor who will need your event date. Most newspapers also carry a list of volunteer opportunities, so find out who writes those.

  • Write a press release It may sound a bit scary, but it's worth doing because as well as sending them to journalists, you can add your press releases to your fundraising and social media pages. You basically need a short, simple story that gives the who, what, why, when, where and how of your activity, your contact details and a good strong picture if possible. Whoever it goes to, always follow it up with a telephone call - as with many things in life, in PR you have to be persistent. There are more tips on writing press releases and a template here.
  • Get your name in print Use your local newspaper's 'Letters page' as another way of expressing yourself - as always, keep letters brief and to the point - then they stand more chance of being published. And you can always write a story yourself; magazines, trade journals, and newsletters often appreciate a story like a 'How-to' feature like a from a guest contributor.
  • Don't forget online Consider setting up a blog, or comment on someone else's blog (perhaps the journalists or businesses you want to attract) as a way of getting to new supporters
  • Open up events If you're holding any kind of event, invite journalists and ask your charity or the business that's helping you to invite them to theirs too.  

8. Find a celebrity
If you can find a well-known local person such as a TV newsreader, weather or radio presenter to speak on your behalf, this can pay dividends as they then become linked with your cause. You can usually approach them direct and suggest ways they can be involved, like donating items to be auctioned at events or online, or to sign items to be donated to your charity. You can also ask them for a few words you can use on your MyDonate page. Remember too, that the press will sometimes cover a local person with an interesting story to tell even if they're not famous.

And whichever combination of these tips you choose - good luck with your fundraising!


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