Image by United Methodist Communications

By Brenda Smotherman

Churches can be a source of great human interest stories for news media. Reporters and editors may be interested in an event you are hosting or project you are involved in — especially if it benefits people or includes those who are not part of your church. However, you want to be wise when determining whether or not you send your media contacts information.

Gauge if your story is newsworthy before reaching out to media. Look at your information from the point-of-view of your media contact and audience. Tell your story highlighting how it benefits them and meets their needs. Consider if the subject is unique or first of its kind or has broad appeal. While your information is important, press contacts may not see your story as a fit for their audience.

You might have a news friendly story when you:
  • Welcome a new pastor.
  • Hit a mile-marker anniversary or benchmark in outreach efforts.
  • Host a well-known personality for an event that’s open to the public.
  • Throw a fall festival that’s free for everyone.
  • Invite the community to take part in your flood recovery mission trip.
  • Provide a Christmas toy store for the less fortunate and ask for community donations.
  • Hold a fundraiser for a local person.

Your church may not be a story’s hero or focus. Share about the fundraiser’s recipient or event features, then relate them back to your church. 

Cover the five Ws:
  1. Who is your story about?
  2. What is happening?
  3. Where is it located?
  4. When will it take place?
  5. Why is it important?

That’s: Who? What? Where? When? Why?

Failure to answer each of these questions will limit the coverage you receive.

Stories with supportive resources appeal to media. You can:

  • Offer interviews with a fundraiser’s recipient. If they are not available, media may lose interest. They like to share how efforts impact people so help provide that with your spokesperson.
  • Provide supportive statistics. These add credibility to the importance of your information. For example, share local hunger statistics when promoting your new food pantry.
  • List available visuals in your pitch or press release email’s introduction. Note activity for video or anticipated photos. You want to help them paint the picture of your story for their audience.

If a story isn’t news friendly, focus energy on your church communication channels.

You should contact the local media only after you’ve determined that you have a newsy story.

Brenda Smotherman is a senior public relations specialist with United Methodist Communications. Find more helpful stories on ResourceUMC.


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