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Attracting the Attention Your Cause Deserves

Joseph Barbato


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Attracting the Attention Your Cause Deserves
by Joseph Barbato, 105 pp., $24.95 (Click here for quantity discount information)

To attract attention to your cause, you could:

  • Paint your building Day-Glo orange
  • Blare hip hop music from the rooftop
  • Have staff members sport Mohawk haircuts

But if you're a bit less bombastic, and searching for innovative (and more palatable) ways to attract ongoing attention, you'll fare much better with Joseph Barbato's new book, Attracting the Attention Your Cause Deserves.

First, let's make clear what this book is NOT.

It is not a guide for writing press releases.

It is not a manual for creating a speaker's bureau.

It is not a treatise offering PR palaver.

All of those hairs have been split … many times over.

Attracting the Attention Your Cause Deserves is something far more useful – and invigorating – to those wanting to advance the good work of their organization.

Think of it as a "Trade Secrets Revealed" book, one allowing you to accomplish three key objectives for your cause:

1. Greater visibility
2. A broader constituency
3. More money raised

And who better to write it than Joseph Barbato, a widely respected pro who's worked both sides of the aisle. For 20 years he toiled in the public information departments of various nonprofits. Now he heads an award-winning firm that works with some of America's top nonprofits.

After reading Attracting the Attention Your Cause Deserves, here are just a few of the skills you'll become more proficient at:

  • Sharpening your organization's niche
  • Identifying the range of people who benefit from your work … thereby targeting your audiences with greater precision
  • Cultivating the right media people, locally, regionally, and nationally if appropriate
  • Organizing your website most efficiently for the press
  • Making a persuasive pitch, in writing and over the phone
  • Becoming the "go to" person for reporters and others, and
  • Learning how to package your expertise to gain even greater exposure

With more than a million nonprofit organizations in existence, there's a lot of noise out there. Shouting won't get you noticed – everyone's doing that. And everyone's tuning it out.

What will attract attention is following Joseph Barbato's field-tested advice. Take his insider wisdom to heart. It spills over every single page of this book.

Then, even if you whisper, rest assured you'll still be heard.

About the Author

Joseph Barbato is president of Barbato Associates, a consulting firm whose clients include many of the nation’s leading nonprofits. He has worked as a writer, editor and director in the public relations and development offices of several institutions, including New York University, The Nature Conservancy, and the City University of New York.

He is the author or coauthor of six earlier books, two of which were featured on “The Today Show.” His book, How to Write Knockout Proposals (Emerson & Church, Publishers), won a starred review from Publishers Weekly, which called it “sound, clear and to the point ... a lifeline for anyone who has ever struggled to write a grant proposal.”

Barbato has worked on both sides of the media pitch. He has been a writer, columnist, and editor for many magazines, and a contributor to The New York Times, USA Today, Smithsonian, The Washington Post, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. His syndicated features appeared for many years in the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Sun-Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Newsday, and other newspapers.

As a publicist, he has won new recognition for the people and programs of many nonprofits in education, health care, and other fields. As publicity director for the New York Book Fair, an annual publishing event held in Madison Square Garden, Lincoln Center, and other Manhattan locations in the 1970s and 80s, he helped bring national attention to the work of hundreds of independent book publishers from throughout the country.

His consulting firm provides editorial services to the advancement programs of many nonprofit institutions. Clients have included M.I.T., the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, Environmental Defense, the Westport Playhouse, the University of Maryland Medical Center, and the Hole in the Wall Gang Camps.

Barbato has presented seminars on writing for many organizations, including Duke University, the Rainforest Alliance, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Kresge Foundation, and the Grant Center in Memphis.

He earned his B.A. in journalism and his M.A. in American studies at New York University, where he served in his senior year as campus correspondent for The New York Times.

Barbato is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the Authors Guild, and the National Book Critics Circle. He has served twice as president of Washington Independent Writers, an organization of 1,800 journalists, authors, and other writers in the nation’s capital.

Table of Contents

1 Sharpen your niche
2 Take inventory
3 Who benefits?
4 Make a plan
5 Staying on message
6 Be clear. Be concise. Be gone.
7 Keep your elevator working
8 Telling your story
9 The cogent example
10 Think visually
11 The people factor
12 Make it credible
13 Target your audience
14 Where the elite meet
15 Getting to know you
16 Winning national attention
17 Be helpful online
18 Build good relations with the media
19 And now the news
20 Make your pitch
21 Become a go-to person
22 Be consistent and persistent
23 Shooting yourself in the foot
24 Having your say
25 Package your expertise
26 Waging campaigns
27 Staying fresh
28 Publicity checklist
29 The secret


This article is excerpted from Joseph Barbato’s book, Attracting the Attention
Your Cause Deserves,  For reprint permission, call 508-359-0019.

What is Your Organization’s ‘Elevator Message’?

By Joseph Barbato

When I first heard the phrase “elevator message,” I wondered what was so important about delivering a message while rising to the 15th floor. Then someone explained the idea was to be able to describe an organization’s work to an outsider in the short space of an elevator ride. I’ve been a confirmed elevator man ever since.

I’ve known several masters of the elevator message. Each knew how to sound a few simple and powerful notes about his organization in such a way that every visitor left with an understanding of why the group mattered.

There is a knack to honing a simple message. The more tightly focused your niche, the easier it is to express who you are – witness groups from a local hospice to Habitat for Humanity. But even the sharpest niche can be subverted if you insist on saying too much in your message.

Given about 90 seconds, what would you say if asked, “What does Save Our Families do?” 

You’ll need to be direct and focused, answering just the basic questions:

  • What does our organization do?
  • Where is it heading?
  • Why should anyone care?

The fact is, your time with reporters and visitors is fleeting. You want to impart key bits of memorable information that characterize your work.

Maybe you’re a “camp for sick kids” that “transforms lives” by allowing youngsters to “play and be themselves for the first time.” There is much more that leaders of the Hole in the Wall Gang Camps would want you to know. But, as I learned in working with the group, it is the beauty of allowing kids to be just kids that lies at the heart of the program.

Rest assured that Paul Newman, who founded the camps, could speak at length about the numbers of campers served, the careful medical management of the camps, the wonderful facilities that have been created for the kids, and the important respite that the kids’ going away to camp offers stressed-out parents.

But you have to restrain yourself in the elevator – offering just enough to convey who you are and what’s special about what you do, and no more.

Another way to think about an elevator message is to imagine a friend standing a hundred yards away on the other side of a river, and you have to shout for her to hear. What are the few declarative sentences you would be sure to get out if you were describing your organization? In the case of the Hole in the Wall Gang Camps, it would be:

We have camps for sick kids!
The experience transforms their lives!
The kids can play and be themselves – for the first time!

What do you want to shout for the world to hear? Figure that out, and you have the tight, focused message that will inform all of your publicity efforts.

Telling Your Story

Once you’ve polished your elevator message, it’s time to tell your story.

Amid the chaos of life, nothing gives order and meaning as much as a well-told story. More to the point, stories grab people. Give a reporter a tale about a 75-year-old grandmother graduating from your business college, and he’ll go for it every time.

You don’t have to be a great storyteller to pitch a story to reporters. Just be sure you know all the facts – no surprises, please – and can provide the outline of why the story will make a great feature or broadcast segment.

Let’s say yours is a community hospital with new outreach programs for inner-city families. Greater visibility will help boost patient numbers and perhaps scare up some new donors to meet the high costs of additional staff and facilities.

What is going on in your organization that is newsworthy? Sure, outstanding doctors and nurses are counseling families on drug abuse, HIV/AIDS, and other issues. But they just sit still in rented office space talking across tables.

That is the lackluster setting. But what is the story dying to be told? You won’t know until you contact the outreach staff and learn how the program is making a difference.

When you hear that 11-year-old Johnny’s life was saved through counseling and rehab treatment that helped him break a cocaine habit, you’re onto something. In fact, Johnny is bright and charming. He and the staff got along so well that Johnny and his family have invited doctors to their home to celebrate the boy’s twelfth birthday.

I suspect you’ve already whipped out your cell phone to invite Channel 4 news to cover the party, which will be held in a neighborhood project right smack in the middle of an area served by the outreach program.

Amid the birthday cake, the smiling faces, and the banter between Johnny and a nurse, it becomes clear how important your outreach program is in helping families come back from the nightmare of addiction. 

Your organization is filled with stories, no matter what your field. The challenge is to find them. And that’s not as hard as you may think. Your program directors and specialists are on the front lines every day. They see remarkable things they probably take for granted.