Churches can be typically shy in dealing with the media. Many church leaders have been burnt. But it’s my experience that public relations (PR) can be a great way for a church to tell the world about the great work that they are doing. PR is a much more authentic communications channel for churches than advertising. I would highly recommend that Pastors, church leaders and Church Communications Directors use it as a communications tactic. I’ve written a few ideas below based on my own experience that I hope will help you the next time you want to tell your community about what your church is doing.
Here are the 7 practical public relations tips for churches:
1. Do Your Research
Read and scan the newspapers, radio and television to see what stories are making news ahead of when you actually want your story out there. I came across a story of a university promoting an app they launched around 2 years ago. I cut it out of the paper and kept it on file. I used the same ideas they had used to get our church app’s story in the newspaper. Because the newspaper was syndicated the same story appeared across the country. The result was a very good spike in downloads of the app and a perception changer for our church. (You can read the story here) One of the reasons why I think this story got up was because it was surprising coming from a church. Surprising and breaking perceptions can increase your chances of getting your story out.
2. Be Newsworthy
Being newsworthy means that you have a story that people want to hear. For example your jam sale probably isn’t newsworthy. But your community and raising funds to help others as a result of a natural disaster that has just happened is. Why? Because it is timely.
3. Be You
Some Australian media are quite negatively disposed towards church and it’s leaders. Just being yourself and not stiff and formal can be quite surprising for many journalists. It can be interesting to see journalist walk into an interview with a very negative posture, but leave very positively, just because the interviewee was their-self.
4. Be Quotable
It’s important to think through what you want to say. It is a good idea to write it down. If a your church community are involved in the story it is a very good idea to interview them ahead of time and write down their thoughts. Journalists love to hear what everyday people are thinking. Where possible write down 2-3 paragraphs of quotable quotes.
Journalists are sometimes time poor. The more you give them. The easier it is for them to file their story on time. Sometimes journalist will have the time to interview the person at the centre of the story too.
5. Be Available For A Photo Opportunity
Papers love photo opportunities. The more members of your community you have available the better. It’s especially helpful to have the people who were quoted available for a photo-op. The challenge here is that you need to be available when they want you. Many news stories happen fast so the more you are available the increased likelihood you will have a photo-op. Stories with photos always stand out more in the paper and often a good picture will actually increase the size of the story, or placement of the story in the paper more towards the front page.
6. Choose your media outlets carefully
You don’t have to blast every media outlet every time you think you have a newsworthy story. Sometimes your story will only be relevant for local news. News outlets don’t like to be spammed, if you spam them too often they may actually ignore your newsworthy story.
7. Get Advice From A PR professional
If you know someone who works in public relations or is a journalist, get them to help you. They will know what will help, and what will hinder you getting your story out. PR advice can be expensive, but if you do most of the leg work before you talk to them it will cut their hours down and make them much more affordable.
This post is very much at public relations 101 level. Have you had media experience and want to share your wisdom? I know there are some of you that read this blog! Or got any questions? Comment below.