SEEDS OF GREATNESS

By Palmer Holt

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PR Proverbs

Even if you have good in-house PR capability, establish a relationship with an outside agency—before you need them. It is easy to become ingrown; outside input gives you a balanced, unbiased perspective.

Media relations advice for ministry PR practitioners.
D i s c u s s i n g “ e f f e c t i v e m e D i a r e l at i o n s ” in a short

Know Your Media
Learn what the media wants and needs, then deliver. The media beast gobbles up content. Budget cuts have decimated staffs. Competition among outlets is fierce. There is a good chance they will use real news you provide if written in a timely and professional manner. But do not expect effusive gratitude. Journalists do not want to be viewed as taking handouts from PR “flacks.” Do not waste the media’s time. They typically focus on that day’s story. Return calls immediately. When they ask for information, ask about their deadline. Break your neck to comply. Do not call during deadline crunch, two to three hours before air or press time. There are three main news categories: 1) Hard news is time/date sensitive, straight-forward, typically written in inverted pyramid style, and used in whole, in part, or as a catalyst for original articles. 2) Features, or human interest stories, give readers/viewers a break from hard news. Do not bother writing feature news releases. Media outlets will not pick them up; they may show up elsewhere, making obvious the article does not belong to them. Instead, send the media a pitch outlining story highlights and asking whether they would be interested in doing their own piece. Make follow-up calls. 3) Opinion pieces—newspaper editorial page guest columns, op-eds, letters to the editor—may showcase your organization’s president, CEO, or subject-matter experts. Write strong, tight press releases conforming to Associated Press (APStylebook.com) standards. Think about news photographically. For television journalists, “If you can’t video it, it didn’t happen.” If you cannot get your great story and well-written press release to the right people, you will get no coverage. Develop a media contact data base and keep it current. Vocus (Vocus.com) and Cision (Cision.com) provide media lists, but that can be costly. Collaborate with others to subscribe and ask for the nonprofit rate. Both e-blast and fax blast your press releases. Consider distributing national releases via Christian Newswire (christiannewswire.com) or ReligionNews.com, which gives your release and organization credibility.
Palmer Holt is president of InChrist Communications Inc. (InChristCommunications.com), a national communications firm primarily serving faith-based ministries, churches, and businesses. Their clients include Mission Aviation Fellowship, Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, The Gideons International, Gospel for Asia, Open Doors, Outreach Inc., HCJB Global, and Douglas Shaw & Associates. Contact at pholt@inchristcommunications.com or 704-663-3303.
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column is a tall order. It resulted in a deluge of practical “how-to” bullet points. But isn’t this how the book of Proverbs is arranged— strong, pithy, practical statements of wisdom and truth about God and life? If the model is good enough for Solomon, it is good enough for me. So here goes. I hope that these insights help as you design your ministry’s media outreach strategy.

Know Your MinistrY
Learn your ministry so thoroughly that instead of being a hireling you become grafted in, sharing its DNA. What is its niche, setting apart its core mission and personality from groups engaged in similar ministry? Into which news beats beyond the Christian/religion/faith and values, nonprofit and local/community might it fit? For example, our longtime client, Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), appeals to these beats, plus “international” and “aviation news.” Is your organization open to a healthy, proactive relationship with the media? If it is fearful, you are going to have a hard row to hoe. Develop media relations based on Acts 1:8: Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and ends of the earth. First service the needs of your local media, then state, regional, and national media. Develop story sources within your organization. Designated spokespersons should be you as the public relations (PR) practitioner and top ministry leaders or subject-matter experts. Insist on access to your president or CEO—the ultimate decision maker who personifies the ministry. Earn his or her confidence. If there is no strong in-house news writer (newspaper experience preferred), then find a good freelancer. Get a good photographer and videographer. Maintain a stock photo archive and good “b-roll” video illustrating your ministry. Create and maintain a “media” or “press” web page with a standing press kit, archived press releases, and garnered news clips. Find a social media person who seeks out individuals and groups to engage, acts as your ministry’s advocate in online conversations, and provides feedback and analytics to help determine communications strategy. Gather news clips with Google News Alerts (google. com/alerts). Figure the dollar value of coverage by comparing with ad space or air-time costs. A story has thirdparty credibility. It is worth five times the ad value. Ministries can be targets or victims of violence or other crises. Develop a crisis communications plan in concert with your security team.
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