From Obscurity to Headlines: How to Tell Social Justice Stories They Can’t Ignore

Learn the art of effective PR for socially conscious organizations so you can capture the media's attention and drive social impact.
Contributed by Martin Ricard—September 18, 2023
How to Tell Social Justice Stories They Can’t Ignore

In a world where justice-motivated businesses, nonprofits and institutions are all striving to make a meaningful social impact, one thing is abundantly clear: there’s a story behind every endeavor.

But not all stories are created equal.

When it comes to getting media attention and building community engagement, it’s not just about having a story to tell; it’s about crafting a narrative so compelling, so relevant and so in tune with the times that the world can’t help but sit up and take notice.

When I was a reporter, my inbox would get flooded with emails from people who were all essentially saying the same thing: “I’ve got a great story for you to tell.”

While it was admirable that so many people wanted to get my attention by pitching me a story idea, I would always pick my stories based on relevance, timing and how much potential that story could advance my goals as a journalist. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough media space to tell every story anymore, so you have to be creative in “selling” your story to the media.

This article is your guide to navigating this challenge.

It’s a compass that points you toward the strategies, techniques and insights that will transform your socially conscious business or nonprofit from an unsung hero into a compelling narrative that the media simply can’t ignore.

It’s about learning the art of PR that not only reaches the right ears but resonates with the hearts and minds of your target audience, inspiring them to stand with you in your mission for a more just and equitable world.

Before we dive into those tactics, let’s talk about how we got here and why it’s important to understand how the news media works.

The decline of traditional news media, particularly at the local level, has become an increasingly pervasive issue in recent years. Several factors have contributed to this decline, making it exceedingly difficult for organizations and regular people to secure local news coverage.

Let’s explore some of the key reasons behind this predicament.

First, the digital revolution has fundamentally altered the way people consume news.

With the rise of online news platforms and social media, traditional print newspapers and local TV stations have struggled to retain their audiences. As a result, many news outlets have faced declining readership and advertising revenue.

In response, they have often been forced to reduce staff, including local reporters who play a crucial role in covering community events and issues.

Another significant challenge is the financial strain on news organizations.

The internet has disrupted the traditional business model of newspapers and TV stations. While digital advertising has grown, it hasn’t fully compensated for the loss of revenue from print and broadcast advertising. This financial crunch has led to downsizing, cuts in investigative journalism, and diminished resources for covering local stories.

Consolidation in the media industry has also played a role in limiting local news coverage.

Large conglomerates often own multiple newspapers and TV stations, leading to centralized decision-making and reduced local autonomy. This means that a story considered significant by local communities may not align with the priorities of corporate owners, making it less likely to receive coverage.

Furthermore, the news cycle has become increasingly dominated by national and international stories.

High-profile events, political developments and celebrity news often overshadow local stories. Editors and producers may prioritize stories with broader appeal or those that generate higher ratings or online clicks, leaving local news underreported.

Lastly, the 24-hour news cycle has intensified the competition for attention.

News organizations are constantly seeking fresh content to feed their digital platforms, which can sometimes lead to sensationalism or an emphasis on stories that grab immediate attention, potentially sidelining important but less sensational local news.

In this challenging media landscape, regular people and organizations seeking news coverage must be proactive, creative and persistent. So here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way to help you craft a story they can’t ignore…

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