So, you’ve written your online fundraising page to share with friends and family, contacted potential sponsors and now you’re getting geared up to take the trip of a lifetime. But what else can you do to maximise your story and make sure as many people as possible are hearing about your trip?
In this section, we cover tips and tricks that maximise publicity; you could even be featured on our press page.
Here are some of the best ways to go about getting your story published – whether you’re targeting newspapers, local publications or online platforms.
How to position your story
There are two key factors to a good human interest story: it needs to be relevant, and timely.
Relevance is key — without it it’s unlikely many people will be interested in your trip. You can find relevance in your story by comparing and contrasting experiences that you and your peers have been exposed to, to the reality of life in the country you're visiting.
Take one of our student midwives from Southampton, UK — she mentioned the fact that she had noticed an increase in the number of African women at her local general hospital, and wanted to go to Tanzania in order to learn more about African culture so she could better support them back at home. Because her story was relevant to community development in Southampton, her story was published and captured the attention of the local people.
Another one of our students noticed that his local hospital was opening a new cancer unit. The student’s placement was in oncology, and as soon as the paper learned that only 23 out of 53 African countries have cancer treatment facilities, they wanted to run his story right away.
Timing is important — tie your story in with current affairs or events. Be opportunistic and keep an eye out for relevant news to do with the country you’re visiting, your discipline or healthcare that you could tie your story in with.
For example, it might be Sri Lankan New Year whilst you’re fundraising, which would give your story an added facet of interest. Or maybe your college's African Society is holding an event at the student union, and they might be interested in hearing about your trip to Tanzania?
Unless your story is exceptional, don’t expect to get a response from national papers. That’s not to say you shouldn’t try, but the chances that your story is of equal interest to national or global politics, celebrity scoops or the latest current affairs is slim. Instead, focus your efforts on local publications for a more targeted, relevant audience and more chance of being featured. You can see some examples, here.
Your local status is invaluable and will help get your foot in the door. Let the publication know how you’re connected to the town or city you share. Did you grow up there? Perhaps you went to school or have an emotional connection to the area? Including any of the above will immediately make your story more relevant to the publication and their readers.
Nursing student Alex managed to get her local newspaper to cover her story, which soon caught the attention of a local group and in turn, secured some funds:
‘I wrote to my local paper who agreed to cover the story, and that attracted some interest. My local drama group took interest in me and hosted two plays over two nights — both nights sold out. These two nights alone raised $3600!’
As with local newspapers, the key is keeping your story relevant to the outlet. Contacting the biggest national music station probably isn’t going to be successful, but your local news station or even a subsidiary of a national broadcaster might be.
Lots of radio stations do local news segments, and many even have a roving reporter who will get out and about to interview people with stories of interest. If you’re planning on contacting your local radio station, it’s a good idea to have some interesting facts and figures lined up to use as a hook when you’re chatting to the reporter; it’s very easy to get tongue-tied when you’re live on air.
Don’t forget that your university might also have a radio station that you could approach to spread your story—more on that, below.
Your university is a great place to look for publicity, in fact, they are probably looking for stories just like yours to inspire prospective and current students. You might also be a member of a club at your university, or a nationally recognised society, who may be interested in your story, too. If you’re a graduate, your university may have an alumni magazine or society you could talk to.
Use your connections to get in touch with those you think might be interested. Most universities have their own paper, a student magazine, at least one type of blog as well as maybe even a radio or TV station. Any column inches you gain from this also make great additions to your resume for future job applications.