Helping to bring attention to impactful nonprofit organizations is one of our greatest honors at Goodwin Consulting. One such incredible client is Health Imperatives, whose mission is to improve the health and well-being of low-income or vulnerable families and individuals in Southeastern Massachusetts.
Having reached our one-year representation milestone with the dedicated Health Imperatives team, we’re proud to reflect on one of the organization’s most critical public relations efforts since the start of our PR engagement.
Content warning: This story references domestic violence and may not be appropriate for all readers.
The Client: Health Imperatives
Health Imperatives’ efforts to provide trauma-informed, inclusive services are structured around four main areas of focus and expertise:
- Sexual and reproductive healthcare and other health services
- Youth and young families
- WIC nutrition assistance
- Support for survivors of violence
Thanks to Health Imperatives, Massachusetts residents gain access to high-quality, compassionate, and equitable care regardless of income level, race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender identity, country of origin, and immigration status.
The Story: Changing the Narrative around Domestic Violence
On New Year’s Day, 2023, 39-year-old Ana Walshe from Cohasset, Massachusetts, vanished. The real estate agent and mother of three young children was supposed to hire a rideshare and board a flight to Washington, D.C., that day, but she did neither. Eight days later, her husband was arrested and charged with her murder.
Horrifying stories of intimate partner violence are tragically common, yet only a fraction of these crimes gain the kind of media attention generated by Ana’s murder. At Health Imperatives, president and CEO Julia Kehoe hoped Ana’s terrible death would prompt greater awareness of violent crime in the home. More specifically, Julia wanted to spotlight the harmful disparities in media coverage from one victim to the next.
While media outlets frequently rush to report on wealthier white victims, women of color and those from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds rarely receive priority news coverage. Some stories are never told at all.
The Communications Strategy: Telling the Stories No One Else Will Tell
Purpose-driven to draw awareness to the dual injustices of domestic violence and class-motivated reporting, Goodwin and Julia worked together to craft a letter to the editor of the Boston Globe.
“There can never be enough reporting on violent acts against women,” Julia’s letter read, describing how the “extensive coverage of Ana Walshe’s story” contributed to the criminal investigation. In contrast, Julia acknowledged Amber Buckner, a Stoughton woman murdered only one month before Ana Walshe.
“Coverage described her apparent substance use disorder, residence in a halfway house, children in the care of others, and that she was ‘getting her life back.’ This focus inadvertently fuels victim-blaming,” wrote Julia.
“Greater awareness of unspeakable crimes leads to positive change. We must feel equal horror, regardless of the victim’s circumstance, and work as a community to prevent violence from happening in the first place.”
Small effort, immense impact
Less than a week after her letter’s publication, multiple Boston-area news outlets offered Julia guest platforms for furthering her message. Due to just one thoughtfully targeted letter, she was able to introduce audiences to a new perspective on intimate partner violence, provide actionable steps for community involvement, and spread awareness of Health Imperatives and their life-changing work with vulnerable communities.
The approach we utilized is called “newsjacking,” and it’s a highly effective public relations strategy of leaning into current events to draw attention to a business or brand—or, as in this case, an organization’s mission.
Newsjacking Done Right
The term “newsjacking” sounds downright threatening, but the strategy itself is a sensitive one that should be guided by an experienced PR professional.
When a nonprofit uses a high-traffic news story to springboard its message, the organization must take care to interweave passion for its cause with compassion for its audience. Public relations consultants like Goodwin can help develop a comprehensive strategy that serves to attract donors, volunteers, and other supporters without steamrolling the conversation.
Start by listening
Stay consistently attuned to local news, industry updates, and popular discussion topics, and you’ll know the moment a relevant topic hits the mainstream media. By joining existing conversations that have already attracted an engaged audience, you’ll connect with more people (and a greater diversity of people) than you’d ever reach with a social media post made at random.
As part of your daily routine, listen to the news or subscribe to a podcast that reviews the latest news trends. Even simple PR engagement, such as leaving comments on news articles, will begin to establish you as a subject matter expert and a valued part of community conversations.
A Good Win for Good People Doing Good Work
After Julia Kehoe’s letter to the Boston Globe editor, Health Imperatives’ exposure skyrocketed—a sure sign that her letter had struck a chord throughout the community and for broader audiences, as well.
When a committed CEO joins forces with a PR expert to promote a timely message with insightful intelligence, good things can happen. And when those good things help to make the world a better place, that’s a win we can all celebrate.
Ready to win positive PR for your nonprofit? Get in touch!