I am asked at least once a year whether to allow a sponsor send out their own press release about their involvement with a nonprofit.
The answer is YES! And, just to safeguard yourself, include parameters about promotion in the sponsorship agreement.
First, the reasons to allow your sponsor to promote their support of your organization are practical. Your sponsors might have considerable media cache that you don’t have. I have worked on projects that would have been quite vanilla if it were not for the sponsorship of notable entities like the L.A. Kings. Not only are Kings players a huge draw for news sources at the event, they have relationships to Fox Sports, as well as other sponsors who are eager to tag along. Through their connections, the story ran to a much broader audience.
Keep in mind that the media will not be able to tell the sponsor’s story without telling the nonprofit’s story. The Kings, for instance, had to state who they were helping and why. Once the media has confirmed their interest and attendance, it’s your job to ensure that your logo is front and center for every possible camera angle. Also, make sure that you have a spokesperson or two who are well prepared and available to be interviewed.
Which leads us to how you stay in the driver’s seat. Make sure they respect other sponsors. If this isn’t the title sponsor, they don’t get to drop the title sponsor’s name from the title to insinuate they are the title sponsor. You can’t allow a lesser contributor to leverage more value than they paid for through a carefully crafted press release. If you have a title sponsor, then every sponsor needs to use that correct title in their promotional efforts. To protect your sponsors and your organization, require that they submit their press release(s) to you prior to distributing them to the media.
You also want to know where they are pitching their side of the story so they don’t scoop you. Perhaps you have a reporter lined up to do a human interest story on someone who benefits from your services, but your sponsor pitches an equally compelling story about their employee who volunteers with your organization and is terminally ill but is determined to be at the event. Both are worthy stories, but the risk is that the story will go on a tangent that overlooks your organization. It could slant either personally about the volunteer’s family and struggle with whatever disease is winning the race, or more about the sponsor’s commitment to volunteerism and what other organizations they are involved with.
You need to control the story as much as possible and ask to be included in the interview whenever possible. It is completely appropriate for you to be present and chime in when the message goes sideways. Reporters are typically respectful of your requests. It’s your job to gently keep them on your story. I mentioned above that the sponsor can’t tell the story without the nonprofit, but you don’t want to end up a side dish instead of the main entrée.
If you are delivering on the benefits you promised your sponsors, then these simple procedures should not be a problem.
If you have a promotional question or challenge you are struggling with, please submit the idea in the comments section for a future blog post.
McCormick L.A. has been helping businesses and organizations in and around Long Beach with their public relations and marketing needs for over 20 years.