Grantee Communications Toolkit*

Congratulations on receiving a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. This is a significant achievement, and you should share your success with the public. In the past, some grantees have asked for guidance as they sent out their press releases, set up social media platforms, and reached out to stakeholders. The Office of Communications put this kit together to guide NEH grantees through some of the common publicity questions.

As you can see in the “Manage your Grant” section of the NEH website, there are specific acknowledgment requirements you must adhere to after accepting your grant. You can find these acknowledgment requirements here.

NEH does not endorse the products or services mentioned in this material. For further information please see: Website Disclaimers.

Toolkit Contents

Reach Out to Us for Help:

National Endowment for the Humanities
400 7th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20506

General Information
1-800-NEH-1121
202-606-8400

TDD
1-866-372-2930
202-606-8282

Contact the Office of Communications: media@neh.gov
 



Searching for Grant Data

Did you know that you that you can find data for grants NEH has awarded on our website? Using this form, you can generate information on funded projects throughout NEH’s history, from 1965 to today. You can search by state, Congressional district, institution, keyword, or by year. You can also export the results into a spreadsheet, which you can use to make totals, populate a map, or create a handout.

Social Media

While it can be easy to underestimate or be intimidated by social media, tools like blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Flickr, and many more are free resources that can extend the reach of your message. However, just because there are so many free resources available to you, this does not mean you should necessarily use all of them. You should use the one(s) that will be most effective in promoting your project.

Choosing the Best Platform for You:

Blogs

  1.  If you do not have a website, then creating a blog would be a great first step for you. There are many free web hosts, like WordPress and Tumblr, as well as blog platforms that charge small fees, such as Squarespace and Posthaven.
  2.  If you already have a website set up for your project, your best course of action would be to set up a blog on your existing site. Setting up a new, separate blog or website will draw traffic away from your existing one, which will dilute your message.
  3.  Blogs are less about the project announcements and more about analyzing and writing opinions. Be sure to be brief, tailor you message with your target audience in mind, and include profiles of subjects that are relevant to your project.
  4.  You should post new content at least once a week. If you post fewer than three times per week, try to be consistent on what days you post. Consider collaborating with other bloggers and re-posting each other’s content.

Facebook

  1.  Facebook is an online community space that allows millions of people to connect and share their experiences online with one another. It’s a great way to let people know what is going on with your project
  2.  The basics:
    1. Your Page - This is a space where you can post status updates on your project. It is a great place to repurpose blog posts and content from your website.
    2. Events -​ If you are hosting or sponsoring an event related to your project, you can create an event from your Facebook account and invite your followers to attend.
    3. Photo albums - If you have great photos from your project or event you can create photo albums for the public to see.
    4. Facebook Live – You can broadcast events live to the public and allow them to interact with your event by posting comments and questions. Check out a few examples of this on NEH’s Facebook account.
  3.  Be sure to set your Facebook privacy filter to “everyone” to allow people to share your Facebook page and posts on their walls.

Be sure to follow the main NEH Facebook account.

Twitter

  1.  Twitter is a microblogging platform that limits posts (or “Tweets”) to a maximum of 140 characters. You can sign up here.
  2.  Pick a Handle (your name) that represents your project well, the shorter, the better.
  3.  Twitter is a valuable resource because it allows you to connect with people, especially the people within your niche. These people can help you reach a broader audience by following you and retweeting your posts so that the people who follow them can also see what you’re doing. To connect with these people you need to:
    1. Search Twitter for organizations similar to yours, follow them, and engage them (Re-tweet and like their posts and tag them in your posts that they might be interested in).
    2. Twitter will give you suggestions based on the people you currently follow. Be sure to check those people out because Twitter does a great job recommending new people to follow.
  4.  Conversations on Twitter are often grouped by hashtags: e.g., #NationalDogDay, #Berlin, #NEHturns50. You should consider creating a hashtag around a new product, event, or exhibit to encourage the online community to give you feedback and comments. You should advertise your hashtag in press releases, on Twitter, and at these events.
  5.  Remember that less is more. Just because you have 140 characters, doesn’t mean you should use them all. You should try to think of catchy tweets, like click bait that will make your followers want to click on your links or photos and retweet your posts.
  6.  Studies have shown that social media posts with images or videos get three times more engagement than posts without images or videos. Always try to include rich media in your posts.
  7.  To protect yourself from any issues that might arise on Twitter, you should put this in your bio: Follow/RT ≠ endorsement.
  8.  Posting frequency can fluctuate a great deal, but it is a good idea to post unique Tweets once a day and retweet others around two to three times a day.
  9.  Twitter does a great job explaining how to get started here, if you have more questions.

Be sure to follow NEH on Twitter: @NEHgov

Instagram

  1.  Instagram is an app-based social media platform, which means in order to access and update your account, you must do so in the app via a phone or tablet and not on a computer. However, it is possible to monitor your account from a computer.
  2.  Instagram is only for sharing photos and short videos, so if you have a project that has rich media, Instagram can be a great social media platform for you.
  3. The platform is a mix of Twitter and Facebook.
    1. Your photos appear on your follower's feed, similar to how the Facebook newsfeed works.
    2. You post the photos with captions and hashtags like on Twitter. Hashtags help people follow conversations, which can help new people find your account.
  4.  You should use Instagram only if you can tell your project's story through images that draw people to go to your website and seek more information.
  5.  Many people/businesses post about two to three times a week.

YouTube

  1.  YouTube is an online community space for posting videos. The average viewer spends one to two minutes watching a YouTube video, so plan accordingly.
  2.  You can find low cost and easy-to-use video-editing equipment, but understand that it can be a time-consuming process to produce videos.
  3.  YouTube offers easy captioning options to make your videos more accessible.
  4.  You can use free YouTube analytics to help you understand your audience's viewing habits.
  5.  When uploading videos to YouTube, be sure to include a link to your website, ask your audience to leave comments and rate your channel, and provide a brief description of the video with keywords that help viewers find your video.

Subscribe to NEH on YouTube: NEH YouTube

Other Options:

While these are the most popular social media platforms, you might want to look into other options such as Pinterest, a visual discovery tool that you can use to find ideas for all your projects and interests; Flickr, an online photography community; and Reddit, an entertainment, social networking, and news website where registered community members can submit content.

Images

Social Media Badges:

Images are vital to gaining traction on social media. One type of image that many organizations use is called a social media badge.  Badges are rich media, often images, combined with text that helps illustrate the information you are trying to express through the image.

To help you announce to the public that you have received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, NEH has created a social media badge for you to use. Download these badges at the top left of the page.

Create/Find your own Images:

You can create your own badges on a free websites like CanvaReadyMag, and PicMonkey.

You can get free images from UnSplashFlickr’s Creative Commons Page, the Library of Congress, and WikiMedia Commons. All of these websites explain how you must credit and how you may use the images. Use images that are in the public domain or images  for which you have the usage rights.

Sample Social Media Posts

Here are sample posts that you can use to publicize that you received an NEH grant.

Twitter:

  • [Your organization's name or your name if you are an individual who received a grant] just received an @NEHgov grant! [insert link to the NEH press release listing your grant award]  [attach the social media badge] #NEHGrant
  • [Your organization's name or your name if you are an individual who received a grant] is excited to announce that we received a grant from @NEHgov! [insert link to the NEH press release listing your grant award]  [attach the social media badge] #NEHGrant

Facebook:

  • We/I are/am excited to announce that [your organization's name or I] received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities! I can’t wait to [explain what your grant will be used for]. [Insert link to the NEH press release listing your grant award]  [attach the social media badge] #NEHGrant
  • Great news! [Your organization's name or your name if you are an individual that received a grant] just found out that we received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to [explain what your grant will be used for]. [Insert link to the NEH press release listing your grant award]  [attach the social media badge] #NEHGrant

Instagram:

  • (Your organization's name or your name if you are an individual that received a grant) just received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities! [Attach the social media badge] #NEHGrant
  • So excited to announce that [your organization's name or I] was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities! [Attach the social media badge] #NEHGrant

You can add shortened links to your social media posts for free by using sites like Bitly, Owly, and TinyURL.

NEH Talking Points

If you have newspaper interviews, want to create social media posts, or create your own press release, here are some talking points on NEH. These can help you explain how huge of an accomplishment it is to receive a grant from NEH. This also includes a brief overview of the agency in case you find yourself needing to explain NEH’s background and history.

  • The National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965 created the National Endowment for the Humanities as an independent federal agency, the first grand public investment in American culture. The law identified the need for a national cultural agency that would preserve America’s rich history and cultural heritage, and encourage and support scholarship and innovation in history, archaeology, philosophy, literature, and other humanities disciplines.
  • The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is an independent federal agency created in 1965. It is one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States.
  • The Endowment awards grants to top-rated proposals examined by panels of independent, external reviewers.
  • There are four levels of review before a grant is officially supported.
    • Level 1: Knowledgeable persons independent of the agency read each application and advise the agency about its merits.
    • Level 2: NEH’s staff synthesizes the results of the outside review and prepares a slate of recommendations for the National Council on the Humanities.
    • Level 3: The National Council meets in Washington, DC, to advise the Endowment’s chairman on applications and matters of policy.
    • Level 4: The chairman considers the advice he or she has received and makes the final funding decisions. All levels of the review process prior to the chairman’s decision are advisory.
  • NEH grants typically go to cultural institutions, such as museums, archives, libraries, colleges, universities, public television, and radio stations, and to individual scholars. 
  • Since 1965, the Endowment has opened new worlds of learning for the American public with noteworthy projects such as:
    • Seven thousand books, 16 of which have won Pulitzer Prizes, and 20 of which have received the Bancroft Prize.
    • The Civil War, the landmark documentary by Ken Burns viewed by 38 million Americans.
    • The Library of America editions of novels, essays, and poems, celebrating America’s literary heritage.
    • The United States Newspaper Project, which cataloged and microfilmed 63.3 million pages of historic newspapers, paved the way for the National Digital Newspaper Program and its digital repository, Chronicling America.
    • Annual support for 56 states and territories to help support some 56,000 lectures, discussions, exhibitions, and other programs each year.

If you need additional information about the grant you were awarded, you can find it on the grants page here.

Connect and Engage with NEH

NEH frequently posts about new grant opportunities and NEH grantee achievements on our social media platforms, so be sure to follow us!

  1.  NEH Facebook accounts
  1.  NEH Twitter accounts
  1.  NEH YouTube
  2.  NEH Instagram

Media Outreach

How to reach out to media and pitch your story

  1. Know your local media. You do not need a fancy database to find local reporters, Web searches can help you find local reporters. Most outlets have a main line or list their reporters/editors on their website. Other helpful resources are NPR.org, which has a search tool that helps you find local public radio stations, and Newslink.org, which has a list of print media, as well as TV and radio stations by state and category.
  2.  Create a distribution list that includes online media and blog posts, local newspapers, radio stations, television stations, and news and wire services.
  1.  Once you create this list, issue your release to them via email.
  2.  When sending out a release, remember timing:
    1. The time of day and day of week should be considered when you issue a release or call a reporter. Earlier in the week is better than late on a Friday afternoon.
    2. The best time to reach a television news desk is in the morning, not in the late afternoon when they are preparing for their newscasts.
    3. Think about competing news stories. If you issue a release on the same day as a fire or when the President is in town, your story could get lost in the shuffle.
    4. If there is a larger news event, hold your release for a quieter news day.
  3.  Read the “How to press pitch” section of this toolkit to learn how to pitch the press on your story.
  1.  Relationships matter, try to make a connection with these reporters by looking up past stories they have written so you know what they are interested in and try to gear your pitch in that direction.
  2.  One strategy for getting attention for your release is to tie your announcement to a relevant event or to a current news issue. 

Radio and Television Interviews

  1.  Pick someone to be your spokesperson
  2.  Find out
    1. Who will interview you?
    2. How long will the interview be?
    3. Can you get the questions they will be asking you beforehand?
    4. What format will the interview be in?
      1. Taped?
      2. Live shot?
      3. Phone Interview?
      4. News story?
      5. Public Affairs program?

Radio interview:

  • Feel free to bring notes—the listeners can’t see you.
  • Always assume your microphone is on. Never say anything in the studio you wouldn’t want a listener to hear.

Television interview:

  • Ask for a walk-through, so you are comfortable with the stage beforehand.
  • Ask what camera you should look into.
  • TV is fast paced. Be ready to talk about the top three messages about your project.
  • Wear professional clothing.
    • Avoid white, because it “flares” the camera
    • No logos
    • Soft patterns and solid colors are always a safe choice
    • Many TV studios are chilly, so be aware of that

Media Interview Follow Up

You just received a great opportunity to publicize your project, so thank the person who interviewed you with a nice hand-written letter, or email them. Let them know you appreciated their efforts and had great questions prepared for you.  This lets them know that their efforts are appreciated—and this connection can help you later if you would like to do something else with them in the future.

How to Press Pitch

Phone Call:

  • Have the press release on hand in order to provide all details when you make the call.
  • Call the number and ask for the contact – usually the editor. If they are unavailable, ask to speak with whoever is listed as a second name (if there is no second name, ask for any other editor or someone on the news team).
  • If there is no one available to talk to, ask to be forwarded to the reporter's answering machine. Leave a detailed message about why you are calling, who you are, go over the press release, and leave your contact information and tell them to contact you if they did not receive the release or are interested in reporting on your story.
  • Once you are connected: “Hi my name is _______ and I work for _______, how are you doing today? I’m calling to follow up on a press release that I sent out today. Did you receive this advisory?"
    • If they say yes: Go over the highlights of your press release with them, and explain why this is newsworthy. Then ask if they would be willing to cover/write about what you have sent to them.
    • If they say no: What is the best email for us to resend that to you then?
  • If the response to covering your event is:
    • Yes: "Outstanding!" Now you just need to set up a time to discuss the story you pitched. Ask for their direct contact info so you can follow up with them.
    • Maybe: "That’s great." Tell them you would love to have them cover your story, and you believe it is important information for the public to know about. And ask them if there is an angle they are currently looking to write about.
    • No: Don’t be offended. Many reporters write about only very specific areas. Tell them, "Okay, I understand." You can still ask if they would like you to send some photos or information about your story anyway so they can understand your project better. Then get the best email to send this information to.

Stakeholder Outreach

Tips on how to do outreach to stakeholders

Remember that NEH is a stakeholder and you can always reach out to the Office of Communications with questions about promoting your grant. It is important to NEH to be in communication with our grantees throughout and after the grant period. The more you can share your grant with different audiences, the more that people understand the role and the importance of the humanities. 

  • When you reach a milestone or complete a significant phase of the project, contact your program officer to discuss having your project featured on the division's webpage—you can find each division’s webpage here.
  • When you create a product (such as a blog post, report, exhibit, database, etc.), or your project receives media coverage, submit the web link via the “Products and Prizes” tab in eGMS, so that it is shared with the public via our searchable online database: Funded Projects Query Form.
  • Also contact the Office of Communications (email: media@neh.gov). The Communications Team can help you reach out to the media in your area and engage with you on social media about this milestone.
  • When you post important updates on social media make sure you tag the main NEH account (@NEHgov) so we can help further your reach by re-tweeting or sharing your post.

Every grantee will have different groups and organizations that are stakeholders in their grant. Before you even applied for this grant, you probably already thought about groups in your community that would benefit from your grant or be interested in it.The perfect place to start is to reach out to your state humanities council. There are 56 humanities councils located in all U.S. states and jurisdictions. These councils support many local humanities programs and events throughout their jurisdictions. The full list of all the state councils with their contact information is here.

You can also think about reaching out to:

  • local schools
  • museums
  • city council
  • libraries
  • after school programs
  • the tourism board
  • convention center
  • chamber of commerce
  • professional society newsletters
  • community calendar listings

Keep in mind that everyone will reach out to different groups, depending on what kind of grant they received.

NEH Chairman Quote

For your press release you can use this quote from our chairman to give context to the significance, value, and prestige that comes from receiving an NEH grant.

“NEH provides support for projects across America that preserve our heritage, promote scholarly discoveries, and make the best of America’s humanities ideas available to all Americans,” said NEH Chairman William D. Adams. “We are proud to announce this latest group of grantees who, through their projects and research, will bring valuable lessons of history and culture to Americans.”

NEH Logo

The National Endowment for the Humanities requires public acknowledgment of the projects it supports, as outlined in the terms and conditions of your award.  Unless advised to the contrary, an acknowledgment of NEH support and the policy statement must appear on all materials publicizing or resulting from award activities.  The NEH logo and credit line should also be used in acknowledging NEH support whenever possible.  The logo can be downloaded electronically from the NEH website here. The full acknowledgment and publicity requirements can be found here.

NEH Boilerplate

A boilerplate is usually found at the end of a press release, and briefly describes the company or organization related above. The same boilerplate is usually used on every press release the company releases. It is important to remember boilerplates should be up to date, clearly written and short in length.

Here is NEH’s boilerplate in case you need to use it:

ABOUT THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE HUMANITIES

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at: www.neh.gov.

Template Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: (DATE)

Organization (Agency, company, or use your logo)

Media Contact: Name, Phone Number

Email

HEADLINE (ONE LINE ONLY)

Subhead: More Detail as Needed, One Short Sentence Only

City, State: Your announcement starts here, and should lead with a strong first paragraph that clarifies what you are announcing, where, and its relevance to your industry. Don’t bury the lead: doing so makes it harder on reporters to find the information they need most, so get right to it in the first paragraph.

The second paragraph is the best spot for quotes, but choose your quotes carefully. No reporter likes reading from a sea of people saying the same boring thing. Leverage quotes to build the importance of your story but also to shape your core messages. Whenever and wherever possible, include quotes from partners or important surrogates, and avoid extreme exaggeration: having your project director say that your product is the next best thing to a rocket ship is typically a very bad idea unless you are Elon Musk. You can always ask NEH for a quote from a program officer, deputy chairman, or the chairman. We have already provided you with one quote from the chairman.

In the third paragraph it is often tempting to add fluff that doesn’t need to be there. It’s also often extremely tempting to bleed over to a second page by bolstering the third paragraph with company history, lore, and supporting expert opinions. Keep in mind that the goal of the release is to provide clear, concise context on the story. You can always include more detail or links to additional testimonials in your pitch emails or on your blog. Some additional words of wisdom:

  • Whenever possible, try to keep your announcement to one page
  • Nobody likes long blocks of content, so use bullets to your advantage to break up the text
  • Use language people can actually understand: if you had to use thesaurus.com to find it, delete it
  • During your final edit, be honest with yourself on whether or not you are truly focused on what is newsworthy about this announcement. If not, revise accordingly.

If you are announcing an event, you can streamline your release so reporters can read it quickly by listing the who, what, where and when, put this information below the subhead. Here’s an example of how it could look:

What: Screening of your movie, exhibit opening, reading of your book, etc. — list that the event will be open to the public if it is

Where: List location

When: Date/Time

Who: Say who will be attending— an author, director, artist, congressman, etc.

###

About Your Company (If you have organizational boilerplate, put it here): This is a placeholder for a short, three to four sentence description of your company along with a link to your homepage. Double check to ensure the first sentence accurately and clearly describes your business in a manner that could easily be lifted and translated by a reporter.


*NEH does not endorse the products or services mentioned in this material. For further information please see: Website Disclaimers.