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Publicizing the Arrival of a New Minister or Director of Religious Education

Your congregation is welcoming a new minister or director of religious education: congratulations! This is a unique opportunity to publicize your congregation and its existing programs, introduce the community to your new staff person, and attract new visitors to your congregation for worship and programming.

Here’s a list of steps that you can follow to successfully publicize the arrival of your new staff person:

  1. As soon as possible, conduct an inventory of your congregation’s communications resources. Ask the following questions:

    • Who is qualified to serve as a media spokesperson? (Consider the new minister or director of religious education as well as members of the governing board or communications committee).
       
    • With whom do we talk to make sure that our website, newsletter, and list serves communicate timely and useful information for the media and for visitors?
       
    • Does the congregation already have a communications committee? Does that committee include the website administrator, a representative of the governing board, a qualified spokesperson, the newsletter editor, and any other communications-related volunteers in the congregation whose help will be needed to communicate with the outside world?
       
    • How do we prepare to welcome visitors and the media? Is our congregation easily accessible (with clear signs, handicapped access, and greeters on hand to answer questions)? What kind of information do we need to communicate so that new people can make it to worship on Sunday morning?
       
    • What are the local media outlets (including print, web, radio and television outlets) that cover our area? Who in the congregation might already have contacts at these outlets?
       
  2. Based on the answers to the above questions, assemble a communications committee (if the congregation has not already done so), work with the congregation to prepare to welcome visitors and the media, and start developing a list of media contacts. At this time, collect contact information (name, cell phone, email and home phone) for the congregation’s spokespeople.
     
  3. If possible, select a key event around which to build your publicity efforts. This could be an installation ceremony, the first worship service led by your new minister, or a religious education open house organized by your new DRE.

    Keep in mind that the event you choose may be dependent on the season in which your new staff member arrives. Autumn media stories tend to focus on a minister’s first sermon at the start of the congregational year. Winter and spring media stories tend to highlight installation ceremonies. Even if your new staff member has already been in your congregation for several months, it is not too late to introduce them to the community through a special event.
     
  4. Prepare a press packet with materials that you can circulate to members of the media via email, postal mail and your website. A press packet should be ready at least one month in advance of your key event. The packet may include:
     
    • A media advisory to be circulated at least seven days prior to the event. The media advisory is a one-page alert that briefly states the “five w’s” (who, what, where, when and why). It should also include the names of your congregational spokespeople, along with their full daytime and evening contact information. (See sample media advisory (Word) (PDF).)
       
    • A press release to be circulated at least two or three days before the event. The press release should expand on the media advisory by offering additional quotations and background information. While the media advisory reads like a “Save the Date” notice, the press release reads like a news story and sometimes is reprinted verbatim in media outlets. (See sample press release (Word) (PDF).)
       
    • A one-page biography of the new minister or director of religious education.
       
    • A one-page history or backgrounder of the congregation.
       
    • High resolution photos of the new minister or director of religious education and of the congregation that can be reprinted by the media. (See sample photo.)
       
    1. If possible, have all of these materials available as electronic documents, so that you can email them to media outlets.
  5. Finalize a list of local media outlets, including radio, television, magazines, blogs, and newspapers. A good rule of thumb is that the more local the media outlet, the more likely they are to cover a story at a congregation in their area.

    For each media outlet, identify the names and emails of reporters who cover religion, education, BGLT issues, neighborhood news, or other relevant subject areas. If there is no such reporter or you cannot locate their contact information, add the name and email of the news editor to your contact list instead. Also, note the publishing schedule of the outlets that you are targeting.

  6. Distribute your media advisory at least seven days before your event. Email it to your full local media contact list. Consider e-mailing the media advisory (and the subsequent press release with related materials) more than seven days in advance if you are targeting outlets that publish once a week or less.
     
  7. At least two or three days before your event, send a second email to your media contact list, containing your press release, the biographies of your congregation and minister, and your photos.
     
  8. Welcome members of the media and the general public to your congregation on the day of your event (and throughout the year!) Consider the needs of first-time visitors to the congregation and be ready to meet those needs. For example, you may want to have members of the congregation serve as greeters. Or you may put up additional signs to help visitors find their way into and around your building.

    For more suggestions on making your congregation visitor-friendly, see the Mid-America District Staff group’s “Ten Good Ideas: About Getting Your Church Ready for the Fall.”
     
  9. Create two media relations resources files: one for paper documents and the other for electronic documents. Save electronic and paper copies of your media kit materials in these files. Track coverage in the news media following your big event and save hard copies and electronic copies of any news story covering your new minister or DRE.

    Do not assume that an article published online will always be available; many smaller publications take articles off of their websites after several months or charge a fee to access them.
     
  10. Send reporters who cover your event a thank-you email and keep in touch with local reporters in the future. Share with them news about your congregation that may be of genuine interest to them.
     
  11. Regularly revisit your media relations resources file and make sure that materials, such as the bio for your congregation, are up-to-date.

For more information contact pw_specialist @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Tuesday, March 29, 2011.

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