Growing an email list is a crucial element for non profits to build their movements, cross promote their social media, and raise more money. Every email list member is a prospective activist, volunteer, donor, and sneezer – someone who can help spread the word on your behalf.

Typically, any surge in media attention, regardless of subject matter, causes a surge in related web traffic.  So for instance, when your organizations’ report on Iraqi refugees launches, you can expect two things to happen:

  • More people visit your website;
  • More people will search on Internet search terms such as “Iraqi refugees,” “Iraq war refugees,” “Iraqi resettlement,” etc.

Generally, both of these secondary effects of media coverage are short-lived. Unless the report really takes off, the media coverage will peak within 3 or 4 days.  

Our experience is that as the media dies down, so will the traffic. The challenge therefore, is to use the window of opportunity – roughly 100 hours —  created by the earned media spike to convert as many visitors as possible to list membership – which is the gateway to participation with your organization.

The current industry-standard best practices for doing this would include:

  1. Amplification of traffic via blogs, Twitter and online PR. Online coverage leads to more traffic to your site than more traditional PR. The best way to amplify traffic is develop one or two clear calls to action and ask bloggers, tweeters, etc. to repeat them.
  2. Capture and divert Google searchers via customized search ads related to the media activity.  For 100 hours (give or take) search activity will surge on a wide range of plain English variations of “your media topic here.” While organic search may get visitors to one page or another on your site, the only way to get searchers directly to the landing page is via paid search ads.  Maximize those Google grants – or if you don’t have one – consider an expenditure and track your return.  In most cases we’re talking hundreds, not thousands, of dollars.
  3. Launch concomitant online paid media. In an ideal world, the report release would be accompanied by a flight of online ads. As with search, one could expect click through rates to be much higher in the 100-hour media coverage window.
  4. Devote significant home page real estate to diverting traffic to a landing page related to the issue in the media spotlight. For 100 hours, the top home page priority should be getting traffic to the conversion landing page.
  5. Develop a landing page that makes a very brief yet compelling case for signing on – by offering a free benefit or calling them to action. The quality of the landing page will be the single largest determinant in converting media coverage into traffic into names on the email list.

The following is an excerpt from the Marketing Sherpa Landing Page Handbook, considered the bible in the field:

“We suspect some marketers truly believe that if their outbound campaign is good enough, the creative will pre-sell prospects on the offer no matter how lame the landing page is. In other words, many marketers think the outbound campaign is doing the heavy lifting, and the landing page exists simply as a passive collection cup for all the sales or leads generated by the campaign.

The exact opposite is generally true.”

General guidelines for a good landing page are well-documented and include:

  • Suppression of global navigation
  • Minimal choices
  • Collection only of information viewed as appropriate by the visitor

Below is fairly radical but notably effective landing page that Environmental Working Group uses to collect emails from users wishing to consult their database of safe and unsafe cosmetics.  Note that visitors have the power to opt out of future communications.



Many organizations fail to maximize the 100 hours of PR opportunity in converting traffic to leads.

It is critical that your organization work across the “departmental divide”  – meaning communications, marketing, programs, advocacy, and fundraising work together to anticipate media spikes and create integrated marketing plans to convert those spikes into real live leads.