Have you noticed that the mainstream media outlets in your town tend to publicize a handful of congregations while largely ignoring the others?
It seems like every newspaper and TV station has a “go-to” congregation and religious leader for each faith. As a result, certain priests, ministers, rabbis and imams are quoted and interviewed over and over....and your voice isn’t being heard.
Have you ever wondered why? As a former newspaper reporter and editor who’s written many stories about churches, I can tell you how to get coverage.
1. INTRODUCE YOURSELF
The media can’t interview you if they don’t know you exist. Contact the city editors and news editors at your local media outlets. Let them know about your church, where it’s located, its history and anything distinctive about it.
And be sure to tell them you’re interested in commenting on relevant religious issues!
2. BE RESPONSIVE
Reporters are almost always on deadline. If a call, email or text goes unanswered, they move on to the next source. Taking several days to respond to a reporter’s inquiry is a sure way to miss the story and, eventually, be taken off the list of possible sources.
On the other hand, reporters will keep returning to sources that are available and give them what they need. Provide the outlets with all your contact information and, when contacted, respond quickly.
3. HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY
If you’ve offered yourself as a source for stories about interdenominational services or integrating technology into services, for example, take the time to truly understand those subjects and be able to provide information that strengthens the story.
4. SAY IT WELL
Again, reporters are usually in a rush and have limited time and space to do a story. Don’t answer with a scholarly dissertation if the reporter is asking for a quote. If it’s an on-camera interview, know what you’re going to say and practice saying it so you don’t stumble.
5. BE PROACTIVE
Don’t wait for a reporter to call. If your church is doing something truly newsworthy, contact the media. For example, I know of one suburban congregation whose youth group spends one weekend a year living in cardboard boxes to raise awareness of the homelessness problem. It gets covered every year.
Another idea: If you have a thoughtful perspective on an issue, write a column or an opinion piece for your local paper. People will start to look to you as a credible thought-leader.
Local news coverage can be an effective way to raise the profile of your church and share all the good that you’re doing with a much broader audience. As an added benefit, It’s a wonderful way to attract new members and increase donations. Don’t be afraid to initiate it.
If you do start to build a media presence, be sure to share it on social media. It’s all about spreading your strong message to the people that want to hear it. For tips on how to use “social media, readIs Your Church Using Social Media the Right Way?