Sunday, June 30, 2013

Church public relations

Vacation Bible school. Job transition groups. Fun runs. As I look in the local Apple Valley SUNThisweek newspaper, I realize that the only stories about churches are short event listings.
public relations and marketing


As I broaden my search to include the Star Tribune, there's news of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis considering a $165 million capital campaign, the closing of St. John's in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood on St. Paul’s East Side, and Blaine approving the permit for a small Islamic school.

A look at the St. Paul Pioneer Press reveals stories about a unique golf event called the Tournament of the Saints, a Mormon church-owned NBC television station in Utah planning to air first-run "Saturday Night Live" episodes this fall for the first time, and the world's only ordained Hmong Episcopal priest.

Why the shortage of church-related news stories? There are a couple of reasons.

First, news stories related to religion have to meet the same news standards that secular stories meet. Uniqueness counts. (Think about the bands that the Basilica Block Party brings in each year, or the story about local Christian rock group Go Kids Music and its first album hitting No. 2 in the iTunes children’s music section.)

Second, churches are understaffed. At the church that I attend, I know that the pastor has so much on his plate that I wouldn't be surprised if some sermons are drafted on Sunday morning before church. How could the church staff members even find time to think about, yet implement, media outreach?

Which leads to the last point. . .many people at religious institutions probably don't understand public relations or even have heard of PR. The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has a full-time public relations manager, so it is savvy. But for the average church down the street, there's probably an unawareness of how editors decide which stories to run.

Information about Sunday sermons or the children's Christmas program isn't going to cut it as media pitches. I know that the religious institutions in the Twin Cities are doing outstanding work in their communities, and I wish them the best of luck in getting media visibility for that work.
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