Guidelines for Generating Real News about Nonprofits

By: Pat Adanti-Joy

The relentless “fake news” mantra shouted from broadcasts and clogging newsfeeds, compounded by our journalistic brethren’s proclamations that “lying to the media is traditionally called PR,” has been enough lately to make even the most seasoned public relations pros question whether their chosen craft has any redeeming qualities.

For those of us who practice nonprofit public relations, the answer is a resounding “yes!”

Here at Franco, we witness the results of our donation appeals in the hungry men, women and children who receive daily meals from the Bed & Bread trucks The Salvation Army maneuvers through Detroit’s most devastated neighborhoods. We cherish the comfort and compassion provided to Hospice of Michigan and Arbor Hospice patients at end-of-life thanks to volunteers responding to our community outreach. We take pride in Life Remodeled obliterating blight on 300-plus city blocks devastated by the ’67 riots with the increased visibility and manpower our social media efforts helped generate.

There’s nothing fake about the role of PR in these, and countless other, successful promotional initiatives. Follow these few guidelines to spotlight your favorite nonprofit:

  • Stories are everything. Nothing better illustrates a nonprofit’s work than testimonies of transformation. Mine the narratives of people and places fighting the good fight…and succeeding.
  • Offer an experience. The media and civic and business leaders appreciate the chance to volunteer for a great cause. Create an opportunity for them to give back in a creative, newsworthy way and enjoy the support of your new ambassadors.
  • It’s not just the basics. How is your nonprofit addressing the root cause of problems? Focus promotion on efforts to eradicate issues rather than simply apply band-aids.
  • Think outside the box. Rather than simply issue a news release, is there a unique photo opp or event to offer in conjunction with an important announcement to generate greater attention?

While it’s unlikely claims of fake news will fade from the news cycle anytime soon, those of us who practice PR can take great pride in the very real headlines we generate daily about the socially significant work of the nonprofits we represent.

Pat Adanti-Joy, APR, is a vice president at Franco and serves on the agency’s leadership team. With more than 25 years of experience, she manages a variety of marketing, advertising and communications projects for Franco’s nonprofit and business clients. Pat is a long-time, accredited member of Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and is a former PRSA-Detroit board member, as well as a Hefty Award recipient for service to the chapter. She led the chapter’s accreditation prep program for many years and served on a variety of committees. Her healthcare and social services experience includes work with Hospice of Michigan and Arbor Hospice, The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center and The Salvation Army Eastern Michigan Division.


Picture provided by Pat Adanti-Joy: From the February 2018, 16-hour Salvation Army Bed & Bread Club Radiothon, broadcast live on News/Talk 760 WJR from the Emagine Theater in Novi. Fox 2 is interviewing Major Russ Sjögren with my lovely messaging assist. We raised more than $1.26 million to feed and shelter neighbors in need throughout the coming year.