Q & A with Nonprofit Communicator Cassandra West

Workshop trainer Cassandra West

We’ve designed our workshops this year to help you get a leg up on your 2013 communications strategy.

It can be a challenge to get your organization’s message in front of the media and tell engaging, effective stories. If you’re not using the 5 Ws and “The Hook” effectively, your organization may be missing out on media coverage. We asked Cassandra West – communications expert and Workshop facilitator for our Fall training, Writing to Make the News – to shed a little light on the advantages and challenges of nonprofit storytelling.


Q. Why do nonprofit communicators struggle to tell their stories in press releases?
A. They struggle mainly because they’re not sure of how to frame the story and make it relevant to the audience they’re trying to reach. They should strive to find the human, emotional tug—what is going to make someone care about their story, and in effect, what they’re hoping to accomplish.

Q. How will nonprofit communicators be impacted by your workshop?
A. I want them to leave the workshop seeing their stories from the other side, to look for ways to make their stories relate and connect with others. All stories are, I believe, about making a connection—to get someone to think, to laugh, to cry, to act. I want the communicators who take the workshop to ask: what can make a real impression on someone?

Q. What’s the advantage of digital tools to communicate your story?
A. Digital tools allow you to expand your reach so much more than print alone can do. Digital tools are also mobile, so you can make use of them just about anywhere. Most important, they allow for two-way communication. You can have a conversation, not just put your ideas out there but hear the ideas of others.


Cassandra West is a social media consultant, freelance writer and editor. She has worked in corporate and nonprofit communications and for daily newspapers across the country, including the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune, where she saw it all when it came to story pitches and press releases. Today she teaches reporting, writing and multimedia storytelling at Medill School of Journalism and helps grassroots and green organizations tell their stories.

Connect with Cassandra in person and learn more about nonprofit storytelling at our Writing to Make the News workshop!


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