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5 Tips: How to obtain media coverage

By Natalie Bannon

Your church is hosting a special event or has a unique cause and you want everyone to know it. Inviting your local media can be a great way to build your church's presence in the community. So, how do you make your event or idea stand out from the rest and get a reporter to cover it? Check out these 5 marvelous media relations tips.

1. Think like a reporter. Come up with a "hook." Find something that sets your event apart from others, and use it to grab attention! That could be a special guest speaker, entertainment, or a compelling cause with a newsworthy angle. Watch or read the news regularly. Figure out how your event directly relates to something that's going on in the news. If you were a reporter, what would you want to cover? As a viewer or reader, what do you want to see? Pitch your event or cause accordingly.

2. Write like a pro. A well-written press release or media pitch not only increases your chance of coverage, but it also enhances your church's image. Keep it to one page or less. Achieve maximum impact in your headline with the fewest words necessary. Within the first few sentences, answer who, what, when, where and why. Include contact info at the top of the page so it's easy to spot. Make sure you provide a specific name, phone number and alternate phone number-and time your release so that you're available to take calls after it's sent. Want to see some samples? Go to www.umcpresscenter.org to look at press releases we've written to get format ideas.

3. The "eyes" have it. TV and newspaper reporters love a good photo-op. Capitalize on the visual aspect of these mediums and make sure reporters know there will be lots of action going on at the event for footage or photos. Give them something to shoot. Look at your event's schedule and invite reporters at a time when they can get the most compelling content. With such grueling schedules and demanding deadlines, they probably won't be able to stay for the entire event, so you want to make sure they're there for the best parts.

4. Do your homework. What type of reporter would most likely want to cover your event? A religion reporter? Feature writer? Research the best contact. Usually, you can send your press releases and story ideas to assignment editors or producers at local TV stations and the city desk at newspapers. Contact more than one outlet. Call the outlets' main phone line to verify contacts. Be aware of deadlines. Begin communicating with them 3-4 weeks out and follow-up 3 days before the event. Don't be pushy. You don't want to annoy them and risk damaging your chances for good coverage or long-term media relations.

5. Speak in sound bites. Be prepared for a potential interview. Choose an articulate spokesperson to represent your church or event in the media. Ahead of time, have that person create brief, inspiring and informational sound bites to offer in an interview...and practice, practice, practice!

It's that simple! Just remember the five steps to widen your church's reach in the community and foster positive coverage.

  1. Think like a reporter.
  2. Write like a pro.
  3. The "eyes" have it.
  4. Do your homework.
  5. Speak in sound bites.

Following these tips will help you nurture an ongoing relationship with the press so they will remember you as a great source in the future.

For more quick tips, go to our website at www.umcom.org.