Good news stories help raise the profile of the Church and show how Christians are making an enormous contribution to local communities across the country.
Most communities have at least one local newspaper and/or local radio station where there are news reporters who will be interested in stories and events connected to your church.
What makes a good news story?
- Something that affects a lot of people, or is moving, funny, out of the ordinary, brand new or particularly impressive
- Be objective: if you would read this story perhaps other people would enjoy it too
Take a look at recent examples of stories from local ministers and congregations in our news section.
The simplest and most widely used method of communicating a story to the media is writing a press or news release. Be aware that if you send out a news release you must offer contact information and be available to answer follow-up questions.
Preparing a news release
The purpose of a news release is to alert a journalist to something that is happening and to interest him/her to the extent that they want to know more. This is something that any congregation can do, bearing in mind some simple rules:
- Identify a newsworthy story. If you're doubtful, apply a simple test: be completely objective and, if you honestly think that reaction to your story would be, ‘So what?' don't send it. Wait until you have something more interesting and relevant to offer.
- Be creative! Choose a heading that will catch the journalist's attention. Remember that you're competing with all the other news releases that will arrive on the same day.
- The first 10 words of your release have to be effective or, quite simply, the rest will not be read and you will have wasted an opportunity.
- Keep it short and simple and deal with facts. Don't use jargon. What? Who? Why? When? and Where? are the questions that the media will ask and that you should ALWAYS address in the first couple of sentences of your release. If the media want to know more, if they want to put more flesh on the bones, a journalist will contact you.
- Make contacting you easy. Provide as much contact information as possible. Select the best-informed person - whoever knows most about the particular story should be the contact. Ensure that he/she will be available at the number that you give at the time that you say.
- If you are highlighting something that will take place in the future, make that clear and give the journalist as much notice as possible.
Make it clear that you will be happy for a journalist and/or photographer to attend your event.
- Be prepared to accept that, despite your best efforts, your story might not be used. There can be lots of reasons for this, most of them outwith your control. Of course, it's disappointing but it would be sad if it stopped you from keeping in touch with your local media.
- If your story is published or broadcast, try to identify what it contained that attracted interest and bear that in mind when formulating future news releases.
A sample news release is available to download.
What to do if the media contacts you
- Be polite and take their name and number
- Say you will call back as soon as possible
- Contact the Church Communications Team
- Never say 'no comment' - it's best not to reject our right of reply
- Do not speak to journalists "off the record" - anything that is said to a journalist could end up in print
- If you are asked to be a spokesperson for the Church, the General Assembly has agreed to the guidelines in the department's policies and procedures.
Social media is a great way to build a sense of community and help people stay up to date with news.
Read our guidelines for churches using social media for more information on creating and maintaining accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
A good photo can make or break a story.
Please be careful about sourcing images to use in your story. If someone has taken a photograph, then ensure you have their explicit consent before you use it. If the image is coming from a professional photographer, you may need a license to use the image. Please check directly with the photographer.
- Top Tips for Photography: an introduction to best practice when taking photographs
- If you would like further advice on photography please contact the Communications Department.
If you look for any images online, be very careful: just because an image appears on a website doesn't mean anyone can use it. You can purchase stock photos from websites such as iStock, or find royalty-free images on Unsplash and Pixabay. You can typically use images that are under Creative Commons licenses, but check what the rules are around image use and attribution in this case.
Website policy and style guide
Our Church of Scotland website policy and style guide sets out the best practice for content, images, our brand, and who is responsible for content quality on the website. It also explains how to create content that is engaging, useful, accessible and adheres to our house style regarding capitalisation, spellings and style.
If you require further advice then please get in touch with our team.