Publicity and NFPs: why PR is your best marketing tool

publicity ideas for nonprofit organizations/publicity for non-profit organizations/ways to promote nonprofit organisation

If you run a not-for-profit (NFP), you might think that publicity is dangerous and difficult to control, something you can do without. However, it’s actually the most powerful marketing tool available to you, and it can make an impact on your organisation without parallel. For example, we helped Better Boards get national coverage in less than a week.

Imagine how publicity could help you.

Why NFPs don’t use publicity

Like any company, not-for-profits need publicity. But they rarely use it proactively. There are many reasons that these organisations choose not to engage with a PR company: cost, time, but mostly, they’re just not sure what they’re going to get out of it. There’s a saying that ‘no news is good news’ but when it comes to publicity, no publicity is the difference between local support and national awareness or average funding and exceptional funding.

What publicity can do for NFPs

Great publicity can be a game-changer for NFPs. I know, because it’s what I do for a living. In 2016, I helped Better Boards Australasia get national coverage of their conference in a matter of days. Here’s how it happened:

Better Boards Australasia wanted to get noticed as a peak industry group body for the not-for-profit sector. Their chairman, Michael Goldsworthy, approached us to help promote their conference at the Melbourne Convention Centre in 2016. It started that Friday. By Thursday afternoon, we got the story in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. 3AW interviewed Michael on Friday morning. SBS Australia and Channel Ten covered the conference, reporting on it that night, and ABC News Weekend Breakfast covered it on Sunday. I was at the conference with Michael, and I watched as he received 200 missed calls over that weekend. Person after person walked passed him and congratulated him on his great interviews.

So what did I do to get this lesser-known company into the media spotlight?

I found the right angle.

At the time, Better Boards held their conference, there was a going concern that aged care facilities were privatised, and this would mean great looking facilities, but less staff and a reduced quality of care.  In one case, this would mean that elderly Australian immigrants would lose out on culturally-specific care. (You can read it here) This was the perfect angle to promote Better Boards, because this was going to be one of the issues discussed at their conference.

How to find the right angle

We could have pitched a story about Better Boards being a peak industry group body for the NFP sector. We could have pitched a story about the conference. But I can tell you now, neither of those stories would have made it past the pitch. Why?

Because the media isn’t interested in organisations promoting themselves. The media wants engaging new stories or new perspectives or angles on existing issues.  It just so happens when we create these stories, our clients are the experts revealing the problem or presenting the solutions.

Without the right angle, creating publicity for any company, including NFPs, is a lost cause. I believe there are three components to creating a story angle that gets noticed by the media. They are relevance, emotion, and message.


Timing is everything. If we’d have set up a PR campaign a month prior to the conference, that would have created some buzz. But the real impact came from the aged care story that we used. Staying aware of what’s trending in the news can make the difference between a good angle and a great angle.


Our use of the aged care sector issue really tugged at people’s heartstrings, because the elderly relies on help and to take that away is the action of the heartless. Finding an aged care centre prepared to speak about their fears and bring the story to life, was a crucial part of the story to find and made it an irresistible story for the press. We created support for Michael and Better Boards by using emotion to strengthen his message.


The message is the last piece of the angle puzzle. You have the story, now where do you stand on it? Are you for or against it?

Michael supported the NFPs in the aged care sector, and one of his messages to show this was ‘for private companies, there’s a financial dividend and for NFPs, there’s a social dividend’. This was a very powerful statement and instantly placed him as the person fighting for people who need help.

And next, the pitch

Once you have the right angle, pitching to media outlets is the next step. This isn’t as simple as writing up your story and sending it to every journalists’ email. That’s the best way to make sure journalists ignore any future emails from you. You need to find the right contact, usually a journalist who writes the kind of story you’re pitching. This can be a hard slog when you’re trying to get something out fast. That’s where I can help. Because of my previous history as a journalist, I’ve built up a huge network of contacts with all the major newspapers, TV channels and radio stations. It’s why the Better Boards PR campaign happened so quickly and was such a success.

PR, like any tool, is powerful in the right hands. If you want to make sure it’s in the hands of a professional, contact me today.


Has publicity helped your NFP?

Tell us below in the comments section.

Want to get your staff media-ready?

We provide training led by experienced journalist Tony Nicholls, who has covered international stories and worked for many of Australia’s major news networks. Find out more about the types of training we offer here: