How Churches Can Get Press Coverage: Be Newsworthy

How Churches Can Get Press Coverage: Be Newsworthy

August 27, 2018 by

Press coverage can be a great way to get people talking about what your church is doing. Articles, interviews, news clips of your church—yes, please!

Most churches want to get press coverage—until they don’t.

Unfortunately, this month we’ve seen two high-profile example of churches getting press coverage they really don’t want. There’s been the sexual misconduct scandal at Willow Creek and the abuse report about Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania. (Which is why we shared our crisis communication resource.)

It’s tempting to throw our hands up in the air and complain that the news media only covers negative stories. Why don’t they talk about all the good things our churches do?

The answer isn’t nefarious. In fact, it’s pretty simple: The media wants a story. They want headlines that attract eyeballs, stories that people tune in to see, something that people will talk about. The news media covers what’s newsworthy.

So as your church tries to get press coverage, you need to focus on what’s newsworthy.

What’s Not Newsworthy

Let’s be honest: Too often churches try to get press coverage with boring stories that nobody cares about. Is that a little too honest? There may be things happening inside your church that are incredibly important to you, your staff, and your congregation.

But that doesn’t mean anybody outside your church cares.

  • This year’s edition of your annual event (VBS, fall kickoff, marriage retreat, etc.) is unlikely to get traction.
  • The hiring of a new staff member may be big news in your congregation, but not for your wider community.
  • The new building project is exciting for you, but for the neighborhood it’s just construction noise and traffic.

The same old thing is not newsworthy. Something designed for the people of your congregation is not worth a story. Even a novel approach doesn’t always rise to the level of being news.

So What Is Newsworthy?

If your church wants to get press coverage, you need to do something remarkable. Sadly, negative stories are often remarkable. People like to talk about someone’s downfall.

But if you want positive stories, the same principle applies. You need to give them something worth talking about. That usually means there’s some hook that draws people in. Maybe it’s something timely, interesting, noteworthy, relevant, etc.

  • An annual event that ties into something timely or relevant—like a fall kickoff that includes a back-to-school backpack drive—might get people talking.
  • If your church hired a nationally-known pastor, that might be newsworthy.
  • A missions trip on its own isn’t remarkable, but if you’re traveling to a locale that’s been in the news, there might be a relevant angle for the local news to cover.

The News Is Fickle

Being remarkable can get you news coverage, but it doesn’t always happen. The reality is this can be maddeningly fickle.

What’s worth talking about changes all the time. It’s often related to what’s currently happening in the world, whether that’s breaking news, trends, or the latest technology.

  • A church offering bottled water to Pokemon Go players would get coverage a few years ago, but it probably wouldn’t today—because the technology was new and noteworthy then, but not so much today.
  • A missions trip to Haiti shortly after the 2010 earthquake would attract attention, but probably not today.
  • Once upon a time pastors in jeans and worship set to rock music would have made the news, but now that’s almost boring.

It can also depend on what else is in the news. It’s a competition for space or time. Your remarkable, newsworthy thing may get drowned out this week because there’s just too many other things for the media to talk about. Another week a less remarkable, sort of newsworthy thing may get coverage because it’s simply a slow news week.

While this can be discouraging, know that if you’re consistently doing interesting, remarkable things, people will notice. If your story gets dumped one week, it’s likely the reporter will keep you in mind for the future.

Be Remarkable

The real challenge to getting press coverage is that it can’t start with writing the press release. If you want press coverage, it needs to start with planning your events and what your church does.

If you’re not doing something remarkable, no press release can make it newsworthy.

If your church wants to attract attention and make people talk, you have to do things that will make them talk. This goes beyond communication and to the very heart of your church and what you do.

That doesn’t mean your church has to do outrageous things to attract attention. That can work, but doing simple, unexpected things can also attract attention. Some churches put on a show and drop eggs from a helicopter. But other churches might do something simple but far more radical, like welcoming people as they are and actually attracting a crowd of people you wouldn’t normally see in church. Both approaches have generated news stories in the past.

The key is to focus on what your church is all about. If your church is committed to authenticity to the point that it’s painful, then a raw, honest, transparent approach to your church services might get attention. If your church is all about family and creating wonderful moments for families to have together, then out-of-this-world events might make sense.

You have to know your church and make sure what you’re doing that’s remarkable fits with who you are and how God uses your congregation in your local community.

The best way to get press coverage is by doing what comes naturally and have it be so authentic and engaging that people can’t help but talk about it.

More:

Writing press releases, reaching out to the press, and actually getting press coverage can be hard. We can help. Our Courageous Storytellers membership site has created a ton of super-practical public relations resources. Get access to these resources and an ever-growing library of even more resources by joining today.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks


When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998 and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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