Getting good news out
Developing a positive media profile locally is an effective, easy and relatively cheap means of promotion. Used properly it can:
- Raise the profile of the work of your church
- Raise the profile of the Diocese on a local basis
- Change perceptions of what the Church can offer people
- Educate and inform the public
- Encourage more support and interest in your activities
You should never underestimate the importance of the media when it comes to influencing people and helping them form opinions. People put much more faith in what they read in newspapers or hear on radio and television as being genuine 'news' than in costly advertising in publications, or glossy leaflets.
What is 'news'?
News is fast-moving, changeable and, most importantly, topical. The issues that make it into the news depend on many factors, but most news stems from four basic reasons:
- People or organisations doing things
- People or organisations having things done to them
- Unusual events or actions
- Conflict, scandals, disasters ('Bad' news)
But, the most important rule to remember is that anything 'normal' is not news. To make sure your stories are newsworthy, make sure they stand out from everyday happenings.
Make things timely and topical: Christmas and summer are traditionally quieter for local media, so take advantage of this by sending stories of what the church is doing at these times. Remember these are busy times for the church with services, special events, holiday clubs etc, so send them stories and information about these.
Local people love to read about their own community: Whenever you offer a story to the local media, make sure it has a human element in it. Make the most of local success stories from among your clergy or congregation. As a rule, you need to alert the media about good news stories, rather than hope they get in touch with you.
What sort of thing are the media interested in?
Here are a few examples of events or activities that you might like to tell the media about:
A Visit from your Bishop
People love to read about publicly prominent people - just look at how many celebrity magazines there are now!
Special services or unusual events taking place in your Church are a great opportunity to contact the media.
Fundraising Initiatives and Events
Whether this is to raise money for the church, a charity or other deserving cause, local people like to know about opportunities to help their own community or those who have needs of one sort or another. Afterwards, tell the media how much was raised so that they can report on the outcome as well, giving you two lots of media exposure!
Getting our stories published - 'What, Where, Why, When and Who?'
Journalists usually have short deadlines and are often in a hurry. So, they look for two things when reading press releases: What is NEW? & What is the STORY? As they have limited time to read each release, it is vital that they find both of these things out by the end of the first paragraph. Otherwise your carefully written and highly detailed release runs the risk of being thrown away only half-read.
Lay your press release out like a news story, and make sure your first paragraph contains the answers to these five questions: What, Where, Why, When and Who.
Your release should consist of short, double-spaced paragraphs and should aim to be no longer than one side of A4 paper. It should never be more than two sides long - under any circumstances! Make sure you include the name of your church or organisation and your contact details. Write 'News Release' at the top, and the date you are sending it out. Keep a note of the publications you sent it to, and call them a couple of days after sending it, to make sure they have received it, and to see if you can provide them with any further information or assistance.
Who do you send the story to?
Local media - print
Reading the local paper regularly will give you a better idea of who on their staff covers which type of story, and who might be the most interested in following up your idea. Newspapers often carry the individual e-mail addresses of their key journalists so you can contact them direct.
Local media - broadcast
Consider whether the story would be relevant for regional TV and radio as well as the local newspapers. If so, is there someone involved who would be willing to be interviewed on air?
Don't forget your very own monthly Diocesan newspaper: The Bridge. Send your copy to Wendy Robins, Managing Editor - around 2-300 words describing the event and don't forget to include one or two high quality photographs, digital or hard copy, which can be returnable. Contact the Bridge.
When sending photographs to the Bridge or other media please make sure that you have the permission of the people in the photographs to do so. See the 'Protecting the vulnerable' pages for the policy. Also see guidelines on submitting photos for the Bridge.