As a church, you likely have a lot of great events and initiatives happening throughout the year, including community service events, National Back to Church Sunday or special guest speakers. But how do you make sure that your local community is aware of all the good work your church is doing?
One way to spread the word is by developing a relationship with your local media outlets and using them to spread the word about your service and ministry events. And two great ways to engage your local TV, Radio and Newspaper agencies are public service announcements (PSAs) and press releases.
Public Service Announcements
PSAs are short, typically 30-second, pre-recorded or scripted announcements that publicize an event or cause. They’re often used by non-profit organizations to promote their work and get the word out about important issues.
Broadcast media — radio and television — are required by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to serve “in the public interest.” Most stations use PSAs as one of the ways they meet this requirement.
PSA’s tend to be effective at encouraging the audience to do something — for example, calling a phone number for more information, coming to a free event, or signing up for something.
Because there may be many organizations in your area that are competing for PSA air time, make sure your submission is complete and meets the requirements for your local stations. If you already have a relationship with a local station, start there. And remember, PSAs are often run as “filler” and could play in the middle of the night or other times when listenership is low.
Follow these steps for best results:
- Compile a list of all the local radio stations that may be suitable for running your promotion. Use an internet directory or phone book to get phone numbers and addresses.
- Contact (either by phone or via email) to ask if they run PSAs. If they do, ask for the name and contact information for the person responsible for PSAs, usually the Public Affairs director.
- Draft a letter* (or email) to that contact person, asking them to run the PSA and explaining why it would benefit the community. Be sure to include your name, church or ministry name, telephone number and email address with the best times to reach you.
- Send the letter or email with the audio file and a copy of the PSA script to each of your contacts. Include each PSA script on its own page following the script template below.
- Follow up a few days after sending the letter or email. Ask if they received the PSA and if they would consider running it and ask for information when it will play on air.
- Don’t forget to thank the stations that run the PSA.
Press releases are similar to PSAs, but they tend to be longer and are more detailed, providing your local news outlet with all the information they would need to write a story or to entice them to contact your church to learn more so you will want someone on staff who can be your main contact for media inquiries.
Press Releases are best used for events that could be considered newsworthy by your local media and are usually written in a news style format so that a reporter could pick up the information and run a story with little to no re-writing.
Use these ideas to set up a Press Release communications plan for key events at your church.
- Designate a primary media spokesperson. Choose one person, such as your pastor, to be the primary media spokesperson for your church. Designate a backup in case your primary person is unavailable. Make sure your spokespersons are well-versed regarding your event and the church.
- Write your press release* in a short and succinct manner, highlighting what’s unique. What makes your church’s event or initiative special? Why should people care? Be sure to highlight what makes your church stand out.
*The 2022 BTCS Hope Happens Here church kit includes a Press Release template that you can customize for your event and use to send to your local media.
- Build a Media Distribution List and contact reporters. A Media Distribution List is simply a file containing names, media outlets, and contact information for reporters in your market. If you don’t have a list, visit the following media outlets’ websites and look for instructions on how outlets/reporters prefer to be contacted:
- Local TV News Department – Ask for Assignment Editor or News Director
- Daily Newspapers – Ask for Local Desk, Religion Editor, or Managing Editor
- Community Newspapers – Ask for the Editor
- Mainstream News/Talk Radio Stations – Ask for the News Director
- Christian Radio – Ask for the News Director or Program Director
- Send a photo or graphic with your news release. Photos of people are the best types of images. Provide a caption for the image that includes names and titles of those pictured.
- Distribute the Press Release two weeks prior to your event. (Unless your local paper is a weekly publication, then send 3 to 4 weeks in advance.) Re-send it on the Tuesday before.. Send news releases out early in the day – between 8:30 and 9:00 a.m. is the best time to send.
- Follow up with media outlets after sending the Press Release. A brief courtesy call to a journalist is an acceptable practice. Call before 3:00 p.m. the day after you send the press release. When you call, ask if the reporter has received your news release, and if they are able to cover the event at your church. Have your press release in front of you so that you can answer questions. If the journalist is not able to commit to your event, or seems rushed and abrupt, don’t take it personally. Be gracious. Many newsrooms are short-staffed, and reporters are working to meet tight deadlines. Your kind acknowledgement of their hurried schedule will leave a lasting impression and may open doors to a future connection.
- Respond to media inquiries quickly. It’s all about meeting deadlines, so do what you can to accommodate the media representative.
Both PSAs and press releases can be a great way to generate interest in your church’s work and events. By using PSAs and press releases, you can raise awareness about your church’s events and initiatives, and help build interest in your community. So don’t be afraid to give them a try!