How to use the media effectively
We live in an increasingly media-literate society. We hear and see news through television, radio, print and online media constantly and ideas and opinions are formed by them.
Using the media to promote your message can be a powerful tool, but it is also important that churches and Christian organisations know how it works so that they can use it effectively and professionally.
How can Christians use the media effectively?
A single news story can reach thousands of people locally and millions if it is featured in the national press. But it is also something that can be nerve-wracking, as you want your story to be reported fairly. Remember that:
·It is more difficult to get a story into the national press. You need to have something pretty unique to be covered in the national news. It helps to think about what makes your story different and how it might fit in with that week's news agenda..
·The regional press pick up stories more easily - especially when you make it relevant to the local area. For example: 'Local Walsall man from St Christopher's makes a stand against betting shop' is something that local readers in that area will want to know about
·Present your information in a way that as far as possible cannot be misconstrued and make sure your facts are presented clearly
The right approach
It is important that before you contact any journalist you know what your message is going to be. Remember:
·If you are contacting the press to offer an interview or press release, talk to the person doing the interviews about conveying your message and be clear in your own mind about your message when writing your release.
·Remember journalists need your stories and you never know when something will be of interest to them. Make sure you are clear, concise and professional in what you send them and keep thinking about how you can get your message out there.
Top 10 tips for effective communication with the media
1) Put together a list of local media contacts and be rigorous about keeping their details up-to-date. Many journalists can be easily contacted via Twitter and Facebook too.
2) Look at how your local press report things and write your release in that style, not forgetting that journalists don't like attachments so send the release in the body of the email. Review local press for relevant articles to establish an understanding of the outlook and style. Remember that a news story always tries to answer six questions - what, where, when, how, why and who – so make sure your press release does that. The journalist will appreciate it.
3) Decide on your message and repeat it in different ways throughout your press release. Repetition can work well if done right.
4) Arrange a meeting with the editor or a senior journalist of your local newspaper. Good relationships will help your press releases be viewed more favourably. This is vitally important.
5) Take a number of good, high quality, high-resolution photos to go with your press release – sometimes having a good image can determine whether your story gets used. Also, if they are needed to support the story, make sure that you have clear, understandable statistics at hand.
7) Issue press releases regularly, especially when you have a local angle on a story that is appearing in the national press.
8) Invite the local press to an appropriate event such as a community barbecue and to an event where they can meet a number of local church leaders together.
9) Try to have the same spokesperson all the time and make sure all your communications such as your website are saying the same things for consistency.
10) Read up on it. Suggested reading:
Public Relations - a practical guide to the basics Philip Henslowe £14.99 ISBN 0 7494 2937 2
Public Relations in Practice Edited by Ann Gregory £12.99 ISBN 0 7494 1855 9