President's Day, Chinese New Year, Earth Day, Cinco de Mayo, Mother's Day -- so many entries on that new calendar, before it's scribbled full of appointments and events. And for anyone whose nonprofit is vying for media coverage, all of these offer great "hooks," or opportunities to highlight a newsworthy aspect of your work.
I discussed the importance of media hooks in my book, Effective Fundraising for Nonprofits, but I was recently reminded of it while listening to a recorded teleconference with three radio producers -- Rusty Lutz from ABC Radio Networks, Chad Wilkinson from Westwood One Radio Network, and Charles Munroe-Kane from Public Radio International (PRI) -- discussing how they select guests. (It was sponsored by Bulldog Reporter in late 2006.)
One theme that all three hit on repeatedly was their effort to tie stories to what's going on in the news or in people's lives. For example, Chad says that around Christmas, he's scouting for topics to do with shopping and religiosity; around New Year's, he's thinking about resolutions; and he even did a show around the 500th anniversary of the writing of Don Quixote (try finding that one on your calendar).
All of these give you opportunities to place your work in a new light. If I were still working in immigration nonprofits, I'd be pitching Valentine's Day stories about all the U.S. citizen/immigrant couples who'll be spending the holiday apart, due to tortuous bureaucratic procedures. Or, I could bring up citizenship trends around the 4th of July.
And, as alluded to in the Don Quixote example, you aren't limited by what's on your calendar -- in fact, it's time to expand beyond the classic "homeless person getting a Thanksgiving dinner" story. Events like the U.S. elections, Women's History Month, anniversaries of important people's births or deaths, and others can all offer potential tie-ins.
But, speaking of the elections, watch out that you don't collide with other events that have basically taken over the media, particularly if you're pitching to a news show. The panelists agreed that sending a fax on the night of a major primary will almost guarantee that it gets lost in the shuffle.