Make It About The Work: How To Pitch Your Corporate Giving To The Media

01/08/2020

It’s not easy to walk that fine line.

Deep and meaningful corporate giving work can help to transform communities. At the same time, there are lots of different opinions about how that work gets publicized, if at all.

Big donors may prefer to be anonymous while corporations prefer to make a big splash.

Whether the focus is on brand equity or just spreading the word about local volunteering efforts, there are lots of good reasons to partner with the media on corporate giving campaigns. While you’re doing so, be sure to consider the perspectives of all stakeholders, especially those community members being supported by the campaign.

Once you’ve examined those viewpoints in light of the goals of your corporate giving program, you can dive into building a winning media strategy that grows your impact and enhances your brand identity.

How to pitch corporate giving to the media

How to pitch corporate giving to the media

In sharing about your corporate giving, the “post-and-pray” method won’t get you the kind of coverage your efforts deserve.

Reporters aren’t necessarily scouring social media looking for posts about noble CSR campaigns. What’s important to remember is that reporters are looking for stories.

They’re seeking narratives that convey a broader message that will grab readers by the heartstrings.

Your corporate giving initiative probably contain one or more of those stories of interest, but here’s the challenge: Identifying stories and building authentic relationships with members of the media takes significant time and focused effort.

A thoughtful approach to sharing your good work is rewarding and will bear fruit for your corporate giving program, but it takes dedication. Here are some of the steps you should take to begin building your media outreach strategy:

Do the prep work

This is where you frontload.

Take the time to research sites and journalists that are likely to be a good fit for the story you’re pitching.

The details are what get your story picked up.

Here are some questions to frame your thinking about this part of the process:

  1. What kind of “news market” (e.g. local news, food, happenings, etc.) does the story fall into?
  2. For that specific slice of the news market, which are the most ideal outlets/sites?
  3. Which reporters cover this topic best?
  4. How many reporters fall into this category?
  5. How will you contact these reporters?

Once you’ve got clear answers to these questions, you can begin to build a strong list of media contacts. At this early stage, feel free to reach out broadly. Make sure you have a diverse list.

Next, we’ll dive into how you can narrow and break up that list to help your campaign along.

Segment the press list

This is where your research starts to pay off.

The more you dig into developing strong background research, honing the pitch process, nurturing the story you’re trying to tell, and crafting personalized outreach, the greater chances you’ll have of garnering press coverage.

Your metrics for this step are the open and engagement rates (typically via email) you get from those you reach out to after you’ve segmented your list.

Whether you’re breaking up your list by gender, interests, or industry, the level of segmentation will really depend on how deep your research goes and what your outreach goals are. In many cases, more data on those that comprise your list is often better.

Although you can always choose to ignore multiple variables at any point, having foundational data will help support future media outreach efforts. For example, you may want to research and segment your list by the schools that journalists have attended, where they’ve worked previously, their professional networks, or their specific interests.

Most journalists have a clear “beat” and pride themselves on being experts on specific topics that they cover regularly. Dive into their expertise and use it to build rapport.

Get your list right the first time and save yourself some trouble down the road.

This research can also be put to good use in your pitch.

Personalize the pitch

Who likes form emails?

The answer is no one, but especially not busy journalists.

The key to reaching journalists (and getting a response) is putting salient information (about your story) in front of them at precisely the right time. Understanding when and how to do that is a product of your research, your segmented press list, and how each individual informs your overall execution strategy for media outreach.

You’ll want to combine these assets to personalize each pitch as deeply as possible. Based on the information you have, optimize when you send your story to the most relevant journalists at the most ideal time.

A thorough and thoughtful approach will help you get the response you’re looking for when it comes to your corporate giving campaign.

Build strong relationships

Make sure your media partnerships are a two-way street.

In other words, reporters need leads and as someone active in community efforts, you’ll have leads to share. Even when these stories aren’t directly relevant to your corporate giving work, feed your media friends anyway.

Journalists rely on these sorts of contacts and they have long memories. Take advantage of that.

Over time, work to establish yourself as a sort of expert or go-to source for specific journalists. You’ll find it easier to pitch specific stories that boost your corporate brand once you’ve built solid rapport based on shared interests.

Share the results

Publicity is one of the areas where many corporate giving campaigns fall short.

Your media partnerships will produce a significant amount of shareable content. Take the time to disseminate that content widely because it convincingly conveys the impact your program has had.

Not only does this kind of sharing boost morale among employees, it also inspires other corporations to chip in once they see how effective your corporate giving effort has been. Make sure you tell the right story about the work being done in the community and let brand equity concerns be what they are—secondary.

Don’t forget to include rich visuals that convey the true impact of the work that’s been done.

Lastly, remember that sharing stories of impact can help to enrich the entire corporate giving sector. Include lessons you learned about working with community groups and supporting local work so that other corporate funders can implement your learnings in their projects.

Publicize charitable giving (beyond pitching the media)

Publicize charitable giving (beyond pitching the media)

While journalist-friends can be a huge asset, there are other ways to get the word out about your corporate giving projects.

Here are a few suggestions on how to get your social impact projects noticed in the broader community:

Embrace the swag

People love swag. Whether they’re your employees, the media, or community members, give the people what they want: free stuff.

Perhaps the most classic way to promote your corporate giving is to dress people up in company-related attire before they engage in local work. Think of all the photo opportunities of employees working, for example, in company t-shirts in local parks. While it may seem corny, there’s a reason it keeps happening.

For better or for worse, swag tactics work.

Your corporate giving program might not be rapper-level cool, but it can and maybe should still have some serious gear.

Get social

People like to be recognized for their work in the community.

Embrace that instinct: take photos and videos of staff making donations and volunteering their time. It’s OK to indulge in the very human tendency to feel good while doing good. Share that content across your social media channels to demonstrate another side of your company and to celebrate the individuality of the people that comprise it.

Enlist your marketing team to develop materials that specifically highlight the charity and community work happening through your corporate giving initiatives. Ensure that those materials make their way into the overall mix of external communications that your company puts out on a regular basis.

As you disseminate lots of feel-good content, you increase the chances that local media will become aware of your work and amplify your message. Talk about a win-win.

Highlight impact

These days, corporate giving and data-driven social impact initiatives are an established C-suite priority.

Corporations are taking greater care and spending more resources on how they share the results of the corporate giving work they’re doing.

Invest the time and energy to clearly and effectively communicate the impact of corporate giving by putting together a clean and visually-pleasing report that conveys your results. Leverage your marketing and publicity teams to get the word out, just as you would for a new product or service.

In fact, treating your corporate giving like a product or service is how you nurture it and track its efficacy in the market (in this case, the social impact sector). Maximize impact by looking beyond your own giving efforts and towards informing the broader corporate giving field.

Ideally, you’ll be able to pull in significant media attention through the ways you share your impact which only helps to strengthen brand identity and increase your company’s potential for even more effective work down the line.

Manage your corporate giving from one centralized platform

As corporate giving becomes a more significant company priority, it often grows more complex.

That’s why having modern, unified software to organize corporate giving programs becomes critical. With employees juggling external stakeholders, funding requests and internal teams all at once, having a trusted system that pulls it all together and streamlines workflows will save significant time and resources for your company.

Submittable empowers your team to collect assets that build a powerful narrative about your corporate giving program. From robust data about impact to compelling photos, video, and follow-up reporting, it’s a formidable tool when it comes to pitching your corporate giving stories to the media.

If you’re looking to connect and boost your profile with local or national media, a big first step is getting organized and having a platform from which you can do your best corporate giving work.

Here’s your shot.

Paul Perry
Paul Perry

Paul Perry is a writer and former educator with significant experience in nonprofit management. He has a soft spot for grant-seekers striving to make the world a better, more just place.