How much influence does your not-for-profit have? If you call to discuss a key issue with someone in a position of power, have they heard of your organisation? Do they listen? How can not-for-profits raise their profile?
Because the unfortunate fact is that if your profile is low, your influence isn’t going to be that great.
Which means that if there are legislative changes afoot or proposals on the table or consultations taking place, and you are a professional body, a charity or a not-for-profit whose sector might be affected, you may not have much say, however important it for you to have your voice and opinions heard.
Clearly one way to raise your profile – and therefore to have more influence – is via the media.
If your organisation has a media profile, if its asked to provide frequent comment and expert opinion in the press and on radio and TV, then your power to influence events will rise.
So, how can not-for-profits raise their profile?
You need a planned strategy – and part of that strategy is to pick your moment to launch yourself on the media.
Recently, Rough House was asked to help a not for profit organisation get coverage of their views on the Budget.
On the face of it, this was a good idea. It represented businessmen, who wanted to get their views to the Chancellors measures to boost business out there. (Incidentally, these were that the Budget wouldn’t really help!) Every business and political journalist was going to be looking for reaction to the Budget.
But this organisation wasn’t the CBI. It wasn’t the Federation of Small Businesses. It wasn’t the Chambers of Commerce. It was a small, rather select group and this was its first foray into getting any coverage in the media at all. So basically no-one had heard of them.
In fact, we did pretty well. We got a mention on the Sky News website, a first person piece on political website, two members were live guests on a local lunchtime news programme, and they got an article in the Independent on Sunday.
But, and this is a big but. They wanted a mention in every single story written about whether the Budget was good for business.
The problem was they were not an easy sell. When I rang up newsdesks and journalists, no-one had heard of them.
And Budget Day is one when everyone, but everyone, is trying to get their opinions heard, and giving their reaction.
As a journalist, you’ve got to get your story written quickly, so you’ll be turning to the tried and tested organisations and interviewees for reaction – not a not for profit organisation you know nothing about, which might not be credible, or even very good, and about which your readers and audience are going to say ‘who are they, who do they represent.’
So the timing was wrong. What they needed to do was build their profile over time, offering their opinions and expert comment on a range of other business stories when the journalist is not being bombarded with reaction from every side, and there is less pressure on them to get their story done.
Then, when the big story broke, they would have already been on the journalists contacts list and one of the first organisations to be asked for their views.