Organizations’ media teams might be dead-set on finding opportunities to shoot for the stars and land features in the country’s most prominent publications. Falling just short among the clouds or, in this case, mere mentions in news media, however, are how most prominent organizations are covered.
Large organizations received a median of 93 hits in major news outlets in 2015, according to a new study entitled Mediamarks published by M+R. The study was based on the media hits of 40 organizations, all with operating budgets between $50 and $500 million, in 50 major outlets including Bloomberg, The New York Times and National Public Radio.
The study found that organizations were mentioned or used as a source to a broader story the vast majority of the time, with a feature-story rate of just 8.2 percent. “There is definitely value in being the star of a story, but it’s an enormous amount of effort and time to make that case,” said Aaron Eske, a vice president at M+R. “There’s a lot of pressure to get those features. I think that this is showing that 1-in-10 is a good rate to strive for, or at least you’re in good company.”
International organizations saw a median of 261 media hits per year, a high among the four subsectors studied: international, environmental, health and U.S. poverty, which saw the lowest median of 42.
Environmental organizations were the most likely to be featured prominently in a story, a rate of 11.1 percent. U.S. poverty organization, again, trailed at a rate of 6.8. Environmental organizations’ ability to be highlighted more frequently stems from the fact that many can comment on multiple topics – climate change, conservation, etc.
Media teams within organizations that are narrower in focus might benefit from highlighting personal stories that could be picked up by small media to major media and inserting the organization into larger-topic discussions, Eske said. An Alzheimer’s disease-focused organization could, for instance, engage in broader stories about aging. Other findings from the report include:
- The majority of media exposure across the sector still comes via newspaper, representing 48.5 of the median 93 hits. Wire media, such as Associated Press, ranked second overall and among environmental, health and U.S. poverty organizations. Online and broadcast media ranked second and third, respectively, for international organizations;
- Increased awareness was the outcome of media coverage 95.6 percent of the time, with advocacy and fundraising in the single digits. Environmental was the only subset to have an awareness rate of less than 90 percent, due to its 12 percent advocacy rate. Eske conceded that inserting fundraising messages into news media – such as a plug for a walkathon or gala – is difficult, but that advocacy could be achieved by addressing potential solutions. A health organization could, for instance, engage in advocacy by calling on Congress to take a particular action; and,
- Media hits go into hibernation in January. U.S. poverty organizations tend to reach their peak in November and slide in December, according to the study. The Nepal earthquake and refugee crisis caused spring and autumn spikes for international organizations in 2015. The organizations with the most hits by year-end tended to have a slow and steady approach, with few spikes or drops in hits. Eske recommended establishing a consistent flow of news stories by building relationships with reporters involved in the issues that relate to the organization’s mission.
The study’s findings and recommendations are catered to larger organizations seeking hits from major news outlets but takeaways can be scaled down to suit smaller nonprofits, Eske said. Recommendations include evaluating as a media relations team what outlets to target, what types of media are most hits deriving from and where are gaps in coverage. “One of the big takeaways is that your organization has its own needs and goals,” Eske said.