Effective Communication: A Guide for Congregations
Congregation News Releases - Print and Electronic
Reprinted from the March-April 2001 issue of Seeds for the Parish
Get the word out - relate to key celebrations such as Easter or
communication for congregations Christmas are timely and will get noticed.
Your congregation is serving people and making a 5. Weekly newspapers especially appreciate good
difference. W ould n't you like your community to photos. W hen developing ph otos, make two copies;
know ab out it? Your neighbors probably want to keep one and deliver the other to the paper with a
learn more about you. With a little w ork and savvy, caption.
most congregations can gain a higher profile in
their commu nities by working with their local 6. Emphasize the local. Religion editors and
media. And it's free. reporters say they want good stories and story leads
about local events or people. They hear about
Small daily and weekly newspapers want news national and regional stories routinely. They want
about your congregation's ministries. Radio to tell their readers about what's happening in town,
stations will air news stories about local churches, and you can be very helpful.
or may invite local pastors to offer devotions or
inspirational messages. Television stations want to 7. Be sure your stories answer these qu estions:
know about interesting people and events that show WH O is involved, WHA T is the event or idea you
people in action, and your congregation may be want conveyed, WHERE is the story, HOW is the
able to help. ministry being carried out, W HE N w ill the story
occur or WHE N did it occur, an d W HY is the story
Tips to get news coverage
8. Be sure your story is in proper form. News
releases and photo captions should always be typed,
How do you develop positive working relationships
double-spaced. Include the name of someone who
with local editors and broadcasters? Follow a few
can provide additional information (and is willing
simple steps and you're on your w ay:
to be quoted), a phone numb er and e-mail address.
Be sure the congregation W eb site address is
1. Find out w ho the editors or assignments
included on every printed piece.
managers are for your local news organizations.
The key to getting your stories noticed is to know
9. Be patient. Not every idea you send to a
the right people. H ave you m et your pap er's editors
reporter will be used. Other news may crowd out
or the news m anager at your local broadcast
your story. Keep trying.
station? Call him or her and ask for a brief
face-to-face meeting. Introduce yourself and leave
10. Send your newsletter to religion editors and
a brochure about your church or ministry, and also
reporters. They may read these and pick up story
your business card.
ideas. However, you must continue to send news
items separate from newsletters directly to editors
2. Know the deadline. D aily and weekly
and reporters. There are no guarantees that
new spapers have deadlines. M ost have a weekly
newsletters are read.
section for religion news. When you deliver news
stories or new s tips, meet the deadlines.
3. If you write news releases about upcoming How to prepare for an interview
events, get them to news organizations at least two
weeks in advance of the date you wan t the story to News reporters depend on people to help focus a
be aired or published. Give editors flexibility by story. You may be called on for comment on a
delivering your news early. story about your congregation or you may be called
on to comment on something in the news (how
4. Conn ect stories to seasons or significant events many times have you seen a local religious angle on
of the church year. Stories or event notices that a national story?).
To be a good source for a story, you must be
1. Find out what the reporter wants to know . If a
reporter calls and wants you to talk about
something related to your congregation, ask what
the reporter wants to know. If you aren't familiar
with the subject, say so, and try to direct the
reporter to someone who can help.
2. Organize key points. Once you have established
what the reporter wants to know, write on an index
card the three most important points you want to
make in the interview. Keep the card in front of
you during the interview, and find "bridges" to
3. Be brief. Reporters ap preciate answers that are
complete and to the point.
4. Avoid speculation. Comm ent on what you know
- NOT what you don't know. Don't comment on a
report you haven't seen. Don't predict events.
5. Don't use jargon. Every institution has words
such as "Eucharist," "sacraments," and
"confessions" which may not be as clear to a
reporter as they are to you. Use simpler, more
common terms. The key is communicating what
you m ean to an audience that may include people
who do not attend a church regularly.
6. Be energetic and smile. An interview is a great
opportunity to tell the Good News! Your
enthusiasm will show up in the story the public sees
7. Give yourself time. When a reporter calls, it's
not necessary that you respond to questions
immediately. Once you have established what the
reporter wants to know, tell the reporter you'll call
back in 10 minutes. That w ill give you time to
determine your three key points and focus on the
8. Stand up for radio interviews. It may look
strange, but if you stand up in radio interviews,
you'll sound more energetic.
9. Never say "off the record." There is no such
thing. If you don't want to read it or hear it, just
don't say it!
ELCA Communication Services