The news media can help you share the good news
By Lindsay Peyton
The story of Lent still makes headlines. In fact, a number of events during the Lenten season that could easily be newsworthy. It just depends on getting the word out there.
When it comes to sharing an upcoming event with the community or getting the word out about your church, a little media coverage can go a long way.
“It’s such an awesome way for churches to get their story out,” Shannon W. Martin, the TAC’s Director of Communications, explained. “The news can be an incredibly powerful tool for the church. The media can carry a positive message about the church – and that can have a direct effect on the church’s image and reputation in the community.”
Why not share your faith this Lent with the news, she asks. “We know from the Pew Research Center and other studies that there’s a huge, sharp increase in church attendance around Christmas and Easter,” she said. “People in the community are already thinking about church. Why not bring that to the forefront through the news?”
It all boils down to increasing awareness. “Ultimately, we are talking about getting those people in the pews to meet our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” Martin said. “It’s not publicity for the sake of publicity. It’s really evangelism.”
Here are her tips for getting media coverage:
1. Write a press release. This can be a simple write-up, including the topic, the date of any scheduled activities and contact information for your church. If you are planning a Shrove Tuesday pancake dinner, a drive-through Ash Wednesday or an Easter Egg hunt, reach out to your local paper or TV station. They might want to announce the event beforehand or send a photographer or camera crew out for the occasion. Always allow plenty of advanced notice – at least a week. And reporters are only interested in events that are open to the public. They will be most intrigued if an event is a first or unusual.
2. Offer to serve as an expert. Journalists are often looking for sources for their stories. Now is an ideal time of year for clergy to simply write an introductory email to a reporter and share their willingness to serve as an expert. When a reporter does contact you, always make yourself available for interviews and respond quickly. Journalists are busy and often work on deadlines. Be accommodating to their schedules. “Good news coverage establishes pastors as subject matter experts,” Martin said. “And that builds credibility for the pastor and for the church.
3.Get to know your local reporters. There are newspaper, radio and television writers in your area. Send them an email or pick up a phone. It also helps to get to know the reporters you enjoy, who cover religion or community news, and develop a relationship.
4. Remember there is power in numbers. Consider contacting a Catholic priest or a faith leader from another denomination. Ask if they would like to partner with you. “It’s not something you have to do,” Martin said. “But it could make it more interesting to have a God squad offering.”
5. Don’t forget to follow up. If a reporter isn’t receptive to your story idea, accept that decision. Do not keep calling them and asking about it. Instead thank them for their consideration. If you are featured in an article or broadcast media piece, be sure to send a thank you card. “Also, share the story on social media and tag the reporter, expressing your gratitude,” Martin said. “Just like a pastor likes to hear feedback on their sermon, a reporter appreciates a thank you for the blood, sweat and tears they put into a story.”