Read time: 4 minutes

At the end of an outrageously stressful, hectic, and unpredictable year, nonprofit media folks absolutely deserve some well-earned downtime. But these (relatively) quiet moments also happen to be the best time to do the planning and prep work that sets us up for success down the road.

Here’s what we are doing now to make sure we’re ready for the opportunities, challenges, and OH MY GOD WHAT NOW!?! that’s sure to come in 2021.   

Plan. Hopefully you’ve had some internal discussions already about your nonprofit’s priorities for the year ahead. Now is the time to dedicate some space to mapping your communications plan to those organizational priorities, and getting buy-in from other key decision makers. Dust off your communications plan and be sure to think about the following—and, obviously, this goes for your whole organization, but we’re speaking specifically about media relations in this post:

  • What are your organization’s audacious goal(s) for the year ahead? (Think big—if you’re an LGBTQ rights nonprofit, maybe your goal is ensuring that every LGBTQ person can live their lives free from discrimination.)
  • What are your objectives? How are you going to go about actually achieving that goal? (You can get a little more granular here. For that LGBTQ nonprofit, their objectives could be pursuing legislative victories such as passing the Equality Act in Congress. And driving shifts in public opinion by increasing support for nondiscrimination among Republicans by five percent in the next year.)
  • Now that you have your objectives in place, who are your key audiences? (Think about who you need to influence in order to achieve your objectives. The people that THOSE influencers listen to—those are your key audiences.) 
  • Start planning for the various media tactics that will help advance your nonprofit closer to those goals. Include a mix of realistic and achievable tactics (placing op-eds, building or strengthening relationships with five influential reporters, etc.) and a handful of aspirational tactics.

Get in formation. Now that you’ve better articulated your priorities for the year ahead, it’s time to update your messaging. Nonprofits and advocacy campaigns need to explain their position on complex policies and regulations in relateable, bitesize messaging points. 

Take some time to refresh your messaging points by adding any major wins your nonprofit accomplished in 2020, along with new statistics, research, and polling data. Don’t forget to update any template field materials your campaign regularly uses—letters to the editor, op-eds, sign-on letters, etc.—with the new messaging points.

Set up virtual deskside briefings. A new year brings new opportunities and challenges for your issue. Now is a great time to identify the reporters and journalists you’d like to build relationships with through a virtual deskside briefing with your nonprofit’s experts. 

Think of this as an opportunity to set the stage for your issue in the coming year. What are the biggest challenges you’re preparing for now? What is missing from the conversation that your expert can give context to? Also, make sure to ask what stories they’re interested in working on and offer your experts and storytellers to help round out their coverage. 

Storybank. Sharing authentic stories is an important part of any media advocacy plan, but keeping storytellers’ information organized is key. Now is a great time to check in with your storytellers to update their contact information and/or perspective in your storybank, and to thank them for supporting your campaign. 

If you don’t already have a storybank, now is the time to create one! Identify who is most impacted by your issue, why their perspective is important to the conversation on your issue, and how they are comfortable sharing their personal story as part of your campaign. Plan to start storybank collection early so you can uplift unique stories in opinion pieces and reporter outreach later in the year. 

Refresh your media lists. Put on your favorite playlist and update your media list! While this might seem tedious, it’s so important to make sure you have the correct contact information for every reporter, TV and radio producer, columnist, and opinion editor on your list. (Need a place to start? Check out our Opinion Page Yellow Pages!) Especially since many reporters are working remotely and may not have access to their work phone numbers, make sure you have their preferred contact methods reflected on your media list. You do not want to be caught off guard on your first rapid response pitching moment in 2021.  

Put 2020 in your rearview mirror. Use this time to draft newsletters, blog posts, and website content that looks ahead to what you hope to accomplish in 2021. Motivate your staff, volunteers, and supporters to follow your leadership forward into the new year and beyond. We’ll be here to support you every step of the way!

Have other ideas you want to add to this list? Let’s talk about it—we’d love to hear from you @mrcampaigns.


When Alexandria Trimble isn’t on the phone with reporters, she’s on her way to the farmer’s market near Capitol Hill or reading the latest book checked out from her neighborhood public library. You can reach her at


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