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Media Relations and Training

Getting media coverage for your church, mid council, or church-related organization should be the top priority in your communications plan.

“There is no medium—not the Journal of the American Medical Association, not the editorial pages of theNew York Times, not the columns of Catholic Digest—that is off limits for the publicist,” says public relations executive Richard Weiner. “Neophyte publicists may think that there are some areas where media people—namely, columnists, editorial page writers, and radio and television commentators—do not rely on public relations assistance, or that they resent suggestions. That is absolutely not true.”

When you have a story to tell, think Presbyterian media first: Presbyterian News Service, Presbyterians Today, and synod and presbytery publications. Also be sure to cultivate relationships with local media.

What’s newsworthy? Although nearly anything the church does will be of interest to someone in the community, we suggest you use these guidelines from Raleigh Mayer, principal of Raleigh Mayer Consulting:

SEVEN PERFECT PEGS . . . on which to hang a news story

  1. IMPACT—Does your event involve a substantial number of people or a large geographic area?
  2. ODDITY—Does your event have a strange gimmick or unusual theme or angle?
  3. RELEVANCE—Can you relate your event to a current newsworthy issue or topic?
  4. “CALENDURABILITY”—Will your event incorporate a holiday or seasonal occasion or tradition?
  5. CELEBRITY—Can you engage a high-profile person to participate in your event or to endorse it?
  6. HUMAN INTEREST—Will you be able to identify “tearjerkers and mood perkers” in your event?
  7. CONTROVERSY—Are there any sensitive issues that can generate publicity? (Be careful with this one.)

Presbyterians are doing extraordinary things, but too many people don’t know the good news. So go and tell your story! You may also send your stories to

When Speaking to the News Media


Some Things to Remember…

Please Don’t…

  • Don’t speculate. If you don’t know the answer to something, don’t guess or give an opinion. It’s okay to say “I don’t know,” just promise to get back to the reporter with the answer later. Follow up!
  • Don’t try and bluff your way through. It’s a recipe for disaster!
  • Don’t give out second-hand information. Don’t use the phrase… “I’ve heard.”
  • Never ever go “off the record.” Everything is always on the record with the media.
  • Use industry jargon. Remember that the audience you are speaking to more than likely knows nothing about your industry.
  • Even if a reporter is playing hardball with you, try not to be defensive. That’s the easiest way to lose control of the interview.
  • Never, ever say “no comment.”
  • Never criticize a competitor.
  • Don’t repeat negative questions.
  • Don’t ask to see a reporter’s notes or his/her story in advance.
  • Don’t keep talking after you’ve made your point. Shut Up!!!!

Please Do…

  • Use solid facts.
  • Always be honest…but…that doesn’t mean you have to tell everything you know.
  • Admit mistakes.
  • Ask for clarification if you don’t understand something.
  • Use strong, active words.
  • Pace your voice. Try to remember to take a breath at the end of a sentence. We tend to talk faster when we are nervous.
  • Keep your answers short. Remember 8-12 second sound bites.
  • Smile if the situation dictates.
  • The interview is not over until the reporter is gone.
  • Try to be respectful of a reporter’s limited time.
  • Provide fact sheets, logos and other supporting material.
  • Avoid yes or no answers.