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Advice from Unitarian Universalists on Publicizing Environmentally Friendly Programs

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis (UUCA), MD, was featured in an article about local congregations engaged in environmentally-friendly activities. The article was published on shortly before Earth Day 2008 (“County's churches joining environmental movement,” April 19, 2008, in The Capital). Rev. Fred Muir, the parish minister at UUCA, was quoted in the article, and a photograph of him standing in the church’s rain garden was also featured.

Muir offers this advice to congregations on building relationships with local media, based on his experience in Annapolis:

  1. Always return reporter’s phone calls, even if late, even if you think you know what they want and it doesn’t interest you. If you don’t show interest in them, they will stop showing an interest in you.
  2. Especially when invited by the sponsors, show up at press conferences. And if asked to give a statement, do it and be clear about who you are and why you are there.
  3. When asked to testify (which happens quite a bit because of Annapolis being a state capital and the county seat), make the effort to at least submit testimony if not give it person. Again, reporters will notice.
  4. We have encouraged groups that we are aligned with (like Equality Maryland, UU-MD Legislative Action, and others) to use the church as a gathering place or home base when in Annapolis. For example, before and after the marriage equality case was argued at the State Court of Appeals, the ACLU legislative team and all those involved in the case met at the church and did all of their coordination from here. Reporters were in and out and they got to know who and where we are. So, lots of exposure. I was asked to be a respondent if called following the decision.
  5. Finally, build friendly relationships with reporters and keep them posted on church events that may interest them.

On April 20, 2008, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Columbia (UUFC), SC, held a “Bike-In” (promoting the use of environmentally-friendly transportation to attend church) followed by a dedication of the congregation’s new bike rack. The “Bike-In” and dedication were the subject of an April 19, 2008, article (“A green dream: Pedal power from the pulpit”) in The State; the article also described Jones’s upcoming sermon on environmental issues and the congregation’s plan for building renovations in 2010 to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards.

Answering the question of how he attracted positive press coverage of UUFC’s environmental initiatives, Jones writes:

“I guess the simplest answer is relationship. I have cultivated a relationship with the religious editor of the state paper over the three years I have been the minister here. She has called me for phone interviews before, which I have been glad to do, and I have called her to inform her of newsworthy events concerning our Fellowship, but I have been careful not to make too many requests—no more than two a year. When the paper does print an article about our Fellowship, I always email the editor to thank her for her coverage. I will also sometimes email her religious articles that have nothing to do with our Fellowship that she may be interested in.”

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Last updated on Tuesday, March 29, 2011.

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