For a nonprofit or small business, speaking to press can be uncomfortable territory. You don’t always know exactly what questions you will be asked, and you want to be represented accurately. But with a little bit of planning and a clear understanding of your basic messaging, you can be equipped to address a variety of PR points. This will be beneficial not only when it comes to speaking to media, but also when speaking to a more general audience of interested community members.
So how do you describe your nonprofit or small business in a direct, concise way that captures it well? From my very first journalism class in high school and throughout college, we students of journalism have been drilled with: Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? If you are meeting with a reporter (and they’re a good one) you can bet they will be getting at these points, and having answers to these types of questions internally will be extremely helpful when it comes to your overall messaging.
Tip for interviews
Have a core group of reps responsible for speaking with media and every person in that group well aware of your basic PR points. For example, your main contacts could be your Communications Director and VP. The key is to create on-target, consistent messaging that represents your nonprofit or small business the way you want to be represented.
To think about some basic PR points, analyze the “5 Ws and How?” more closely in terms of your organization and how you might approach them as you finalize your messaging:
Who are you? This could mean not only the organization you represent, but your position in the organization, what that job entails, and who else is on your team.
For a nonprofit, who do you serve? For a business, who is your average customer?
What are you? Is your organization a nonprofit or a small business? What does the organization do? What makes your work possible? Think concretely in terms of actions.
When was the organization founded? When did you become a part of it? If any major organizational changes occurred, when?
Where is your organization or business located? For nonprofits, where are the people you serve? For businesses, where do the products you sell come from? Or where does your target customer live? These types of questions can be particularly important when your selling points include that your customers are local or all of your products are made locally.
For a nonprofit, this point is hitting at your mission. Why do you do what you do?
How do you set out to meet your mission? How does your organization incorporate its values into its work?
Each of the above questions can also be adapted to be oriented toward an event your organization is hosting, a new Executive Director, and other news items. So as you pitch to the press, a reporter contacts you, or a community member simply wants more information about your organization, keep in mind the “5 Ws and How?” and take some time to address them before interview time.
Note: Understanding the News Room
A reporter may not ask all the above types of questions depending on the overall story they are covering. If you feel they are missing something important about you, emphasize it, but be aware of the whole story-writing process. The reporter doesn’t always have full authority over the story, and often editors remove sections or suggest a different angle. So don’t take it personally if your quote is cut from an article. If a blatant error has been made, like an incorrect date, most news outlets are able to make changes to their online publications and note the change at the bottom of the article as well. As journalists strive for accuracy, it is good practice to point out these types of errors; however, it is not appropriate practice for a journalist to share the story with you or your organization before it is published, so do not ask to make edits or review a news article before it runs.