Developing a local communication strategy
You may want to develop your own communication strategy at a local or regional level. A 'brainstorming' meeting can be a helpful way to start the process, and guidelines for doing this can be downloaded below, along with a workshop presentation.
Dealing with the media
The media can be a powerful communication tool, if used wisely. Good news stories give third party endorsement to our message and help to raise the profile of the Church. It is important to remember that the purpose of the media is to impart news to viewers, listeners and readers, not to do public relations work for any organisation, including the Church of Scotland.
However, local newspapers, radio stations and websites rely on local news and churches are very much a part of the local community. Most congregations have access to at least one local newspaper and/or local radio station and should be in touch with them.
To make our stories newsworthy and interesting we need an understanding of what constitutes news. News is something that is out of the ordinary and different but still relevant to the media's audience. News is something that touches people and their lives and about which they want to know more. It can be funny, it can be sad, it can be thought provoking, and it can prompt anger or joy, shame or pride, despair or hope - but it must be interesting.
The work going on in our congregations is interesting, relevant and newsworthy. With a little effort it is easy to identify stories and package them in a way that will attract local media.
It's important to begin by making contact with the media in your area, either by phone or, even better, by arranging to have a chat with the local editor or radio station manager.
Once contact has been made, it should be possible to establish who should be the recipient of your story, the best method of getting the story to them - by email, fax or telephone. You also need to be aware of the paper's daily or weekly deadline for sending information and the availability of a photographer if the story warrants a picture. If the story is for the broadcast media then you should find out if interviews are done by phone or in the studio.
The simplest and most widely used method of communicating a story to the media is writing a press or news release.
- Respond promptly to media enquiries. Journalists are often working on tight deadlines or will have found someone else to provide a comment if you take too long to respond.
- Find out how much the journalist knows about your church/council/topic and explain the background where necessary - but do not go into long, detailed explanations. Keep it brief.
- Relate your story to issues of topical interest that will make it more relevant to the journalist's audience.
- Use language that the journalist, and their audience, will understand.
- Journalists are looking for a story and this may not be the story you want to give them. It is therefore important to focus on your key messages and be careful not to be drawn into making remarks that could give the wrong message, particularly if quoted out of context.
- Do not speak to journalists 'off the record' - anything that is said to a journalist could end up in print so if you do not want to see it printed, do not say it.
If you are asked to be a spokesperson for the Church, the General Assembly has agreed these guidelines:
If you would like more information or advice, please email Communications.