February 14, 2014

Three free tools to boost your nonprofit’s public relations

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Caroline AvakianUnless you have a publicist, public relations strategies at small to medium nonprofits are often on the back burner. There are press releases that wind up sitting on your website and not getting much distribution. Press pages with long listings of news article from 2010. You get the picture and we get it too — it’s difficult to focus on PR, especially when you’re a small to mid-sized organization with limited staff and resources.

The good news is that there are a handful of social startups out there focused on helping businesses and nonprofits have an easier time of getting their news out, and helping you find the outlets you should be focusing on. So, I’ve compiled a short list of social public relations tools that will help your nonprofit take the next steps into your newly revitalized public relations plan!


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My new favorite PR tool for nonprofits is Totem. Totem is a simple app that creates professional looking and comprehensive press pages for your website. Typically, a press page is a place for you to put all the information a reporter needs to write about you. If they’re writing a story about your organization, they’ll often need to use a logo, fact sheet, a photo or two, some video. The problem is this kind of information isn’t available on most websites. Many nonprofit sites aren’t designed with the reporter in mind, and there is much to gain by making it easier for a reporter to cover your news. Sure, if they’re writing a story, they can always contact your communications staff, but a nicely stocked press page makes it easier for reporters to cobble together a story last minute and it gives off the impression that your nonprofit is media friendly – both good things when you’re looking to drum up press. If your website’s press page only has published coverage and press releases, then it’s time to make your press page work a little harder for you.

Pitch Engine

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PitchEngine is a social media press release app that allows you to pitch all kinds of content, including text, slideshows, a video section, captions, tags for blog posts, link to related news and a ready made tweet.

Combining short paragraphs and bullet points with Web-friendly links and multi-media, the PitchEngine aims to give reporters and bloggers the key ingredients for a story in an immediately scannable and digestible fashion.

One of the reasons social media press releases have been successful is because it capitalizes on three big trends: The use of multi-media, emphasis on press release search engine optimization and because email has allowed anyone to pitch a story, making the social media release valuable because its format enables reporters to quickly assess what’s newsworthy.

Another big reason I really like PitchEngine is because it lets you easily distribute your release by typing in whom you want to send it to (via email, Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook). All releases created in the system automatically appear in their PitchFeed, a stream of current pitches that can be accessed by reporters and bloggers on site or via RSS.

I think it’s a great tool for nonprofits because of how easy it is to use and how low cost it is. There’s a free version and you can also pay for more features. It’s a nice alternative to shelling out upwards of $350 to get your news release out on the wires, something that can be cost-prohibitive to many nonprofits.



Newsle tracks your Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections and email contacts in the news. You just sign up, and you can follow everyone you know. Newsle notifies you about important articles and press, seconds after they are published and you can choose to follow anyone not just the people in your networks. Newsle lets you stay up-to-date on your board of directors/CEO achievements, your peer’s latest projects, and explore articles on your favorite thought leaders, bloggers and trendsetters all in one place.

I find it also gives me ideas on different ways to partner with individuals and their organizations, and also just motivates me to get out the messages that I know deserve that same kind of attention. I hope it does the same for you!

Any tools that are helping you ramp up your PR? Share them with us in the comments below and tell us why you like them!

Caroline Avakian, Socialbrite’s Managing Partner, is a global development communications strategist in the New York City area with a focus on strategic communications, technology, and innovation. Contact Caroline by email, see her profile page, visit her website, follow her on Twitter or leave a comment.

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