When it comes to PR and communications, human stories are the most powerful tool you have in advancing your organization’s mission. While you must have solid facts and figures at your disposal to give credence to your organization, those facts can feel vague on their own. This is why nonprofit and advocacy organizations often find reporters asking to speak with a member of the community that they serve. A first-person story turns abstract concepts into real, relatable truths.
For example, while the executive director of an environmental justice organization may be able to speak fluently to which policies must be put in place to address high rates of asthma in communities of color, a person living with asthma caused by poor air quality has the lived experience. It is their story which shows a reader why they should care.
Some organizations may understandably feel uneasy asking a member of the community they serve if they would like to speak to press. If you work for an organization dedicated to ending hunger, you know that those who depend on food banks to feed their family can be subject to undeserved judgment or bias. However, many people find power in telling their stories and know that experiencing hardship is nothing to be ashamed of. The most important thing is to make clear that you are inviting them to speak because you believe that their voice is important and that you will continue supporting them regardless of their decision.
A good PR representative will work with you to identify a person who can speak to a given issue and will set parameters ahead of an interview with a reporter. For example, if your organization serves survivors of domestic violence, your PR rep will speak with the potential interviewee to identify what they do and do not feel comfortable disclosing to ensure their safety and will go over options such as aliases. Your PR rep will then convey this to the reporter and have them agree to the parameters ahead of the interview. The overwhelming majority of reporters are grateful for the opportunity to share an impactful story that does not put anyone vulnerable at risk.
When a nonprofit wants to demonstrate the importance of their work, they need look no further than those they serve.