How To Do A Church Press Release Without Annoying The Press

by Bobby Gilles

in Church Communications

This antique Underwood typewriter in my office reminds me of the ambience of journalism's Golden Years

This antique Underwood typewriter in my office reminds me of the ambience of journalism's Golden Years

I love journalism. Visit me in my Sojourn Church staff office where I work as Director of Communications, and you’ll find biographies on my shelf of both Pulitzers, Henry Luce, the Bingham family, Edward R. Murrow, and books like Morning Miracle:┬áInside the Washington Post and Bob Greene’s ode to the newspaper industry Late Edition: A Love Story.

Which is why, even as a Director of Communications, I have too much respect for journalists to waste their time with press releases that wouldn’t legitimately make for a good story. And even if you don’t love the press, I hope to instill that respect in you. It’s to your church’s advantage.

When Should You Send A Press Release?

When you have something interesting to report. Think of yourself as a journalist’s partner, not as an (m)ad man. If you want to buy an ad, buy an ad. But if you want a reporter to do a story on something going on in the life of your church, then put yourself in the reporter’s shoes, and his or her reader’s shoes.

Don’t Waste The Reporter’s Time

Journalists have a tough job with tight deadlines. Part of their success will be determined by their nose for a good story. They’re constantly sifting through leads, tips and press releases, looking for stories they feel will be helpful, relevant and interesting to their readers. If they can’t find news that fits these categories, they won’t last long in their field.

What Criteria Will Help Determine This?

It depends on factors like the size of your church, the size of your city and the situations your city finds itself in. If you’re a large church in a tiny town, then the announcement of each new sermon series might be newsworthy, as might your biannual Ladies Tea.

But if you’re a small church in Chicago, don’t expect the Tribune to find those kinds of things newsworthy.

Sojourn is a four-campus church in Louisville, KY with weekly attendance around 3000. In the past year I’ve sent out press releases relating to our purchase of a large former Catholic church building in the heart of Louisville and the launch of our first campus in southern Indiana (which coincided with our purchase of a historic school building that operated as an elementary school until 2010). These are events that are of interest to many people in those neighborhoods and even people in our metropolitan area as a whole — perhaps Christians in particular, but also non-Christians, particularly because of our regular involvement with the arts and ministries like our free health clinics.

So How Do I Write A Press Release?

Here is a good press release template.

  • Keep your release to one page.
  • Cover who/what/when/where in your lead paragraph.
  • Write it as if you’re the journalist, not the subject. This should be something a reporter could copy-and-paste.
  • Link to more information on your website.
  • Provide your contact info. Make it easy for journalists to talk with you

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