A wonderful banner like this can be made for the exterior of your building for (depending on the banner size) about $80-$200. Parishes in this diocese are eligible to apply for a signage grant of up to $250 each year.
Broadening Your Reach With News Media
Spring is a time when a lot of us host some fantastic parish events. From strawberry festivals to ice cream socials to parades, these events are a great way for us to get out there in our community, meet some new people, and help others discover the amazing love of God and our wonderful holy hospitality.
News media can play a big role in the success of parish events. In my home parish, St. Paul’s New Albany, we host an annual art fair that now attracts thousands each year. It is a unique and very high-quality event that has grown for a lot of reasons but the participation of news media has been an incredibly important part of that growth and development. Each year, we get tons of free media coverage, to the point that other festivals have asked us how we do it. Here are just a few things we do that may help you in thinking about your own parish event.
- Put somebody in charge of it who doesn’t already have a thousand other responsibilities for your event. It should be considered a major, time-consuming responsibility associated with your event. Let someone focus just on media. Don’t make it an afterthought for an already burdened person on your committee.
- Start early and have a plan. Our parish art fair is an annual event so we basically start on the following year as soon as the current year’s festival is done. Even months before our festival, we’re getting ourselves on digital media and local magazine calendars and mentioning it to producers of local TV talk and public affairs shows. We chart out a plan month by month and even week by week as the time draws closer.
- Spend a lot of time cultivating contacts. The diocesan communication office can help you get off the ground with this one. We maintain a very up-to-date database of media all over our diocese and beyond. For example, if you are having an event in Evansville, we can hook you up with Owensboro media right across the river. If you’re in Lawrenceburg, we maintain contacts for Cincinnati-area media, as well. A lot of this is about knowing who to write or call. Once you have a good list of names, you can also do some asking around in your congregation about who has media contacts in your community. You may be surprised who among you is related to (or friends with) a reporter, producer, or editor.
- Hone your message and figure out how you can make your event very visual. For our art fair, we pitch stories or live interview slots with our artists demonstrating how they are creating their art. We also pitch musical groups for tv slots, particularly early morning variety shows. We sometimes offer bits on children’s activities or the preparation of food that will be served at our event. If you aren’t sure what you could do that would be visually attractive to media, let our diocesan communication office brainstorm with you! It is all about being creative and sometimes putting a different but simple spin on things.
- Prepare a news release or media advisory. If you don’t feel comfortable writing one, the diocesan communication office can help. Send your release to multiple contacts at the media outlets in your community generally about a month prior to your event. (Don’t assume they will share among themselves!) Think about who among you would be effective and comfortable spokespersons for your event.
- Be sure to take special care with your Facebook page and/or website during this time. When media get a release from you one of the first things they will do is search out your digital presence and decide if they are interested from that.
- Do really good follow up. Make calls, be kind and helpful but not overbearing. Say you were calling to see if they had any questions or needed anything from you.
- Be reliable. They need to know you will do what you say you are going to do. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. And, always show up when and where you say you will be present. Always deliver what you promised. This will help your parish build a solid reputation that you are a source they can truly rely on.
- Always be accessible and ready to respond quickly and calmly to changes. Don’t freak out if they have to change dates or times for interviews or photo shoots. News happens. Plans change. Things move fast in the world of media. Be easy to work with and go with the flow.
- Thank them for their good coverage. Handwritten notes are best but emails will suffice. Again, it is all about building relationships. Another tip—compliment them for their other stories during the year that have nothing to do with your event. Remember—everyone likes to receive sincere affirmation for their work.
Strategic use of media can help your parish raise more friends and funds than you ever imagined possible, taking your events to the next level. Want some help or want to know more? Please get in touch!
Christ Church Cathedral commemorated Mothering Sunday, where the men do the cooking! This undertaking involved 26 dozen eggs, 112 cheese blintzes, 33 pounds of asparagus, 300 link sausages and one gallon of hollandaise sauce.
Trinity, Indianapolis hosted a popular Lenten conversation series called “REAL TALK: Community Conversations about Race.”
St. David’s, Bean Blossom, was among many parishes hosting an “Ashes to Go” event for Ash Wednesday.
St. Stephen’s, Terre Haute, recently shared a photo of their fun Mardi Gras celebration.
Bishop-elect Jennifer recently visited St. John’s, Washington and St. James, Vincennes.
St. Matthew’s, Indianapolis, was one of the several parishes to do “Collect Change for Change” for the Episcopal Fund for Human Need (EFHN) on time change Sunday.
St. Thomas, Franklin recently held a Parent’s Night Out, with the kids having some fun of their own at the church.
St. Paul’s, New Albany, recently collected over 350 pairs of children’s underwear for the New Albany-Floyd County Schools.