Tag Archives: PR tips for Churches

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What is a media release?

If I’m going to keep posting media release templates, or suggestions, and if my “how to write a Media Release” guide is going to be of any use, it strikes me that I probably need to lay down what my understanding of a media release is… otherwise people will keep looking at me funny.

From the very helpfully descriptive name, you might get the idea that a media release is some information that you’re giving to the media. You might also assume that it’s given to the media for a purpose – and usually this purpose is to secure some sort of media coverage for something, though it might, in the reverse, be used to water down an issue so that you don’t receive coverage – if you can make something seem more boring and less newsworthy than it is.

That’s a pretty limited, though functional, definition of what a media release is.

Here’s my definition.

A media release is a thoughtfully crafted, public, summary of your key messages, and your brand platform, usually in response to a set of newsworthy circumstances.

Media Releases are best, in my opinion, when they’re proactive, not reactive. When you’re on the front foot, looking to contribute to a conversation, not when you’re being chased to say something in response to some circumstances that might be related to you.

It’s not actually for the media, though they are its first readers – it’s for the public. It sums up what you think of an issue, so that the media, if they want to write a story about it, can include your perspective.

It should be tight. It should be not too long (I generally aim for about 500 words). It should be relevant and timely. It should contain news. It should contain facts that back up opinions. It should include your opinions – as quotes from someone credible. It should start with the important stuff and work down – in the good old inverted news pyramid (so that the bottom stuff doesn’t need to be read).

Public relations is about people, and for people. The public. You’re relating to them. There’s no real magic to it. People want to know how your story applies to the average Joe or Joanne. A good media release tells a story that people want to read. So it should also be relatable, and wherever possible include a real person who is affected by your story. People like reading about people.

But if your media release doesn’t present your view on an issue, from your platform, and include what you want to say about the issue – then don’t send it. That’s pretty much the point of this other post about how I think Christians should be doing media stuff.

If you think you can say all you need to say about a complex issue in three sentences, then by all means, send that, but a busy journalist isn’t going to thank you because they have to call you to get more information, or if they have to call you not having the information they need. They’re also not going to necessarily read to the end.

But the journalist isn’t your only audience – so you don’t have to only write three sentences. Your media releases will also inform your spokespeople, if you have a diverse organisation, and provide them with a guide to what your key messages are, they’ll inform your staff, your members, your customers, your congregants, anybody who reads what you say.

If you’re not publishing your own media releases – via your website, and social media, then again, I’d ask what the point is. They’re essentially a publication, from your organisation, on an issue. Publishing them widely also pre-empts the possibility of you being taken out of context, or misrepresented. The media isn’t generally out to misrepresent you – despite what some more paranoid, and less clear, communicators might think.

You can read a bit more about my approach to writing media releases, or about paying me to write them for you, here. If you ask nicely and it seems valuable, I might even write them for free.

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What Alan Jones and Mitt Romney can teach us about Public Christianity

It’s hard to believe that two almost identical situations have occurred so close to each other on the conservative side of politics. Alan Jones can’t have been ignorant of what happened to Mitt Romney when some graceless comments he made at function for party faithful found their way into the media. Which makes Jones’ simply awful comments about John Gillard even less excusable. If that’s even possible…


Image Credit: The Australian

Jones has apologised today, calling the remarks a “black parody” – and that’s the problem with “parody” – it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between “black parody” and the twisted things a shock jock thinks and chooses to express. Romney’s put down of almost half the people he’s hoping will vote for him will probably cost him any chance he had at the presidency.

But there are a couple of lessons here for anybody who speaks into a microphone, or in public, or even in semi-private, or private… first – there’s no such thing as off the record. Ubiquitous recording makes it likely that anything stupid you say in front of people will see the light of day. It’s not enough to not put dumb and damaging things in writing – you can’t even speak them if you don’t want people hearing them.

There is no private. No closed room. No off the record. And people will be quick to throw light on misdeeds. Even when you think you’re only talking to the in crowd.

The rule for company spokespeople used to be never say anything you don’t want people to hear in front of a mic or camera even if you think it’s off… the better principle is probably “never say anything you haven’t thought about that you don’t want being heard by everyone.”

It’s very easy to say that you were misquoted, taken out of context, speaking in parody – but at that point the damage is already done. It’s easy to make clumsy statements – to offensively compare people to the Nazis when they disagree with you, to make slippery slope arguments that disgust your opponents, or to draw unfortunate comparisons by linking different topics deliberately or otherwise… it pays to be careful with what you say, in any context. To “tame your tongue”  because it can be pretty dangerous – as Jones and Romney are learning the hard way, or as James puts it in his letter in the New Testament…

“5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

James prefaces that statement with a particular warning for people who are going to teach others – which I think doesn’t just apply to what ministers of the gospel say from the pulpit, but what Christians say when they speak as Christians in public.

“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.”

This, on one level, is a pretty superficial solution – but it would’ve helped both Romney and Jones. A better solution goes to the heart of the matter. Verse 2 is also a great reminder that we’re all going to stuff up at some point – which is why it pays to apologise early, and often, and to be clear any time you speak that you’re speaking as a broken person only made clean by an external agent – Jesus.

The problem that Jones and Romney have exemplified, and the reason its so hard to swallow an apology after the fact – is that these guys haven’t been just pinged for wrong speaking, but for wrong thinking… the tongue, whether the brain is properly engaged or otherwise, reveals the heart. Or, as Jesus puts it in Matthew 15:

10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them….

17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person.”

This works in both ways – both Jesus and James are keen for words to be matched by deeds, and hearts… it’s no good speaking good words from an unclean heart, as a later interaction with the Pharisees (who approached Jesus to question what his disciples do in Matthew 15)… from Matthew 23 demonstrates.

First, Jesus instructs the people about the Pharisees…

“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them…

Then he turns to the Pharisees to proclaim a series of woes… here’s two of them…

25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

A better solution than “don’t say dumb or harmful stuff where people can hear you” is “don’t think dumb and harmful stuff” – get your internals right, and the externals will follow.

Like James said – we’re always going to stuff up. It’s hard to tame the tongue. The real solution for people in ministry or doing public Christianity is to base everything on the work of Jesus, and God’s grace, in the light of our brokenness – so that we’re known for the gospel, and can point to our own stuff ups as evidence of the need for Jesus’ help, and his words as the basis of our words. If we’re known for that, rather than known for banging on about moral codes that we’ll all inevitably break without a generous act of God and the Spirit, it gives us something consistent to point to when we apologise.

An apology is more believable, and easier to accept, if what is being apologised for is not consistent with everything we’ve said before – and this is where Jones and Romney are going to struggle – Romney has a reputation for being out of touch with the lower class, his wealth, tax records, the aloof and out of touch things he says about life for the everyman, are going to make it hard for him to move past his 47% line, and Jones has a reputation for saying crass and shocking things to make a political point, especially when it comes to Julia Gillard.

This too is why it’s going to be harder and harder for Christians in Australia if we’re not known as people who love God, love our neighbours, and want to follow Jesus – but as people who want to protect “Christian values”… especially when we inevitably misspeak, or aren’t quick enough to distance ourselves from those who do… there’s tremendous pressure on Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party to distance themselves from Jones, just as there was last week with Bernardi’s unfortunate contribution to the gay marriage debate.


Image Credit: SMH

As James puts it…

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

The aim is to use our tongue for the first, and avoid the second… while being wise (more from James):

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deedsdone in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

Incidentally – if you didn’t read verse 14 after reading verse 6 – you might think there was a contradiction between what Jesus says about the heart being what “defiles” – because James says the tongue starts fires that “corrupts the whole body,” while Jesus says the tongue reflects what’s going on in the heart. It’s clear from this verse that James thinks the heart is the basis of the boasting of the tongue… his argument seems to be that an untamed tongue poisoning both for the speaker, and those who listen…

That is all.

A guide to promoting community events

I’ve spent the day putting together a White Paper for a PR client detailing how you might go about publicising and marketing an event. It’s useful stuff. I’m pushing for it to be something they give away, partly because I’d have to completely rewrite it to not breach any copyright stuff if I wanted to give it away from here. But in the course of my research I came across this guide from the Australian Government’s Department of Immigration and Citizenship for “Promoting Community Events Through the Media” – which does pretty much everything my paper does anyway, though in a slightly more basic way.

It’s a good starting point for churches thinking about getting some local media attention for their events.

There are a few other handy bits and pieces courtesy of Business Events Sydney. They have a nice little “toolkit”… which includes a guide to promoting events, and these two semi-useful pages:

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The Press Release I wish churches would put out on the Same Sex Marriage issue

I was talking to a friend this week about a statement his church might put out on gay marriage and he said “have you seen any good press releases on this issue” and I said “no”… which isn’t entirely true, I could probably find one or two. So I wrote one (P.S – to that friend, I’ve tweaked this a bit since).

It’s a bit wordy, and I’d want to edit some bits out depending on context, but it does, I think, incorporate our “key messages”…


CHURCH NAME seeks way forward in Same Sex Marriage Debate

CHURCH/DENOMINATION NAME apologises to LOCATION’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex community for any hurt caused to them in the name of Jesus when homosexuality has been singled out as a special sin. We recognise that this apology is particularly necessary given the heat involved in the current debate surrounding the redefinition of marriage.

As a church community we are interested in people of all sexual orientations, and from all backgrounds, meeting Jesus, and having a long term relationship with the God who created the universe, we believe all human relationships come second to this one relationship.

CHURCH NAME, Spokesperson name, said that while it will inevitably cause tension for people, CHURCH NAME must continue to define homosexuality as contrary to God’s design, as the Bible is clear on the matter, but admits the church has done a bad job whenever homosexuality has been singled out for special treatment.

“As a church community we have to recognise that whenever the Bible discusses homosexuality as contrary to God’s created order, it does so in long lists of sins too often given a free pass by Christians speaking out in the same sex marriage debate.”

“As a society we need to work hard at fostering debate which is inclusive and loving, where loving disagreement is not just tolerated but encouraged. It’s unfortunate that standing up for the current definition of marriage is inevitably framed as standing against those who seek changes to the definition. We are not seeking to question the personhood, or limit the freedoms, of the GLBTI community so much as seeking to uphold an institution that we believe was created by God.”

“Perhaps, as a society, we should be taking stock of the heavy emphasis we put on sexual expression as a fundamental human right in the first place, this seems to inherently discriminate against those who are asexual in orientation, or the unhappily single. We believe that sexuality is important, but that it cannot function as the basis of one’s identity.”

“We believe, as Christian churches have for almost 2,000 years, that Jesus Christ, who claimed to be the son of God, was crucified by the Roman Empire, and was raised three days later. We believe that this historical event verified his claims.”

“From the beginning of Christianity this event has been called the gospel, which means good news, because it has implications for every human, it makes a relationship with God possible because the fundamental truth of human nature is that we cannot avoid doing those things that the Bible calls sin, that is stuff that isn’t in line with what the God who made all things would have us do.”

“We’re not arguing that homosexual orientation is a choice, simply that what is natural to us can still be wrong. All of us are naturally wired to do these things. And the Bible says Jesus undoes that wiring. Not in a way that means we don’t do the wrong thing, but in a way that frees us from defining ourselves by those things.”

“We believe, as churches have since the canon was established by councils 1,700 years ago, that the Bible is the word of God, containing the collation of documents necessary to guide us, but ultimately to tell, and foretell, the story of Jesus as the central event in history. Our calendar years still recognise Jesus arrival as a turning point.”

“Jesus taught that marriage, from the beginning of humanity, was instituted by God as between one man and one woman. While we acknowledge that there are many cultures that have made modifications to this design, or that have no ties to the Judea-Christian tradition, we believe that this design is self evident from the anatomical sexual compatibility of men and women.”

“Because we believe that Jesus, as God’s son, and God himself, speaks as the creator of humanity, and we believe the Bible is God’s word, we must continue to oppose the redefinition of marriage, and to continue to define homosexuality as part of the brokenness of our human nature.”

“This is not a decision we take lightly because we recognise that some people in our community are hurt by disagreement, but it’s a decision we must take in order to continue to offer the hope that Jesus offers to all people.”

“While we believe strongly in the separation of church and state, and have no wish to legislate our belief system for everybody, we recognise that all people in a democracy have a right to participate in policy debate. We continue to oppose a redefinition of the marriage act on the basis that we believe that defining marriage as a lifelong commitment made between a man and a woman is the best way to enable human flourishing. We believe that this is the type of family structure that God intended, though we understand that families are complex and all families need love, support and care, which we humbly offer in our church community.”

“We are always happy to have conversations with people who disagree with us, and will continue to offer love, support, and prayer to those people, and anyone struggling with any sin, or people who want to understand who Jesus is.”

ENDS

For more information contact SPOKESPERSON on PHONE NUMBER


What do you reckon? Is it missing anything vital? What would you cut, or add?

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Being on Message for Jesus: Mike O’Connor Interview

Mike, also known as M-Dog, O’Connor is the minister at Rockhampton Pressy Church. He’s a top bloke who’s always on the lookout for ways to love his community and point them to Jesus. This means using the media a bit, and finding quirky angles to latch on to in order to get Jesus front and centre. I interviewed him because I wanted some regional balance because I think PR is more effective and a bit easier in the less crowded regional markets. Anyway. He says some good stuff.

1. How much media stuff have you guys done?
We’ve had fair bit to do with the media during my three years in Rockhampton. I was interviewed by TV and Radio during our church’s involvement with the Rockhampton Flood recovery and also during our church’s 150th Anniversary Celebration.
I’ve also written a couple of opinion pieces for the local daily newspaper “The Rockhampton Bulletin” about same-sex marriage and about a pizza franchise called “Hell’s Pizza”.

I also use facebook for ministry, I have lots of non-christian ‘friends’ and I’ve taken up twitter again recently.

2. What benefits do you see from engaging with the media?

There are many benefits – I struggle to think of any disadvantages.
In a technological age, the media provide another platform, if not the greatest platform for the church to proclaim the gospel news about Jesus. The media access more people than I can ever reach on a Sunday with the good news about Jesus. We have a message – they have the medium. Our culture is media saturated and so the church needs to engage with the media if we still want people to take seriously the claims about the person and work of Jesus Christ.

3. What do you think stops churches engaging with the media?

It’s hard to speculate accurately, perhaps it’s a matter of not knowing how to use the media or not knowing what things might be in the public interest where the church’s voice would be welcomed into the debate or expected to be heard?

I wonder if there is still a ghetto mentality amongst christians when it comes to the media. The idea of ‘secular’ and ‘sacred’, ‘clean’ and unclean’ still shapes a lot of church thinking and the media is seen as ‘part of the problem’ in an ‘evil world’. I think a more helpful way of viewing the media is seeing it as a platform where we can reach people with the the message of Jesus. This must be done in an intelligent and respectful way, by which I mean, knowing what battles are worth fighting for and the kind of voice or tone we bring to the debate.

4. What do you think it looks like when Christians do media engagement badly?
It’s embarrassing! I think bad engagement means picking the wrong battles and speaking with the wrong voice. There have been a number of examples lately across all mediums concerning same-sex and religious education in schools where we’ve spoken with the wrong tone or picked the wrong battle. What happens is that people think the church is about rules and regulations because essentially that’s what we are telling them. This only perpetuates the stereo-type that Christianity is becoming more and more irrelevant as our culture seeks to be morally progressive. We lose our right to speak about anything intelligently, we’re no longer being invited to the discussion. Bad engagement means no-one is listening when we want to talk to them about Jesus and we’re left wondering why people want nothing to do with the church!

5. How important is it, from your perspective, for us to talk about Jesus and the cross, when we’re appearing in public?

I would see it as essential. If the message that God has given the church to tell the World is about the death and resurrection of Jesus and the forgiveness of sins, then surely that’s what the church needs to be communicating at every opportunity. If we aren’t talking about Jesus we are irrelevant and an out of touch organisation with strict and exclusive morals. Problem is we’re too busy attacking the issues demanding the world listen when really our job is to show them how Jesus is relevant. Its not the role of the church to make Jesus relevant to the world but to show the world how he is relevant.

I wonder if we’ve lost that distinction?

6. Can you tell us a little bit about the Hell Pizza thing?
Sure, an article appeared in our local newspaper about the opening of a pizza franchise in Brisbane and a local Pentecostal Pastor outraged that such demonic activity was taking place in their area. The Pentecostal Pastor was calling for a boycott of the store and for it’s closure.

I made a comment online about how the Pentecostal Pastor was over-reacting and being unhelpful. It was a Pizza shop and if they opened in Rockhampton, I would take my church youth group there. The local paper contacted me the next day and asked me if I would do an interview or write an article as a follow up to the story and if they could send a photographer around to my office.

I told the photographer that he needed to put his trust in Jesus and this was the point of the article I wrote. That while Hell is a real place – this was just a pizza shop and that church needs to be talking about Jesus and not what people can and can’t do.

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How to write a Media Release to promote your church event

Mikey responded to yesterday’s rant about media releases with a post on Christian Reflections urging churches to think about how they can use the media. The day before yesterday a friend in Townsville sent me an email asking for some tips on how to talk to the media – she had sent a release out and had received some interest from a local television station.

For those wondering what makes me qualified to give this advice here are my qualifications in a nutshell. I’m a journalism graduate who spent four years working as a corporate communications hack for a regional development and tourism marketing body – I marketed my organisation and the Townsville region. I wrote hundreds of media releases and had a pretty good strike rate in terms of getting them placed. This was partly because Townsville is a regional centre with lots of media outlets and a finite number of sources, and partly because my organisation had a finger in just about every pie, and probably partly because I know what I’m doing. Enough self promotion for now…

It’s time to put all those years of spin twitting to good use – here’s my guide to writing a media release for your church event, and some tips for what to do when it is picked up, and when it’s not…

The first thing you’ve got to remember when sending out a release is that journalists are time poor and get heaps of media releases. You need to be prepared for the idea that they may not get past the heading and the lede (the first line). If you’re lucky they’ll think your release is interesting and read to the end, if you’re really lucky they’ll want to follow it up. With that in mind… follow these steps.

  1. Write an intriguing headline – it doesn’t have to be literal, puns are ok, but make sure you get some feel for what the story is about from the heading.
  2. Put the important stuff first – who, what, where, when, and most importantly why. The first four are easy. The why needs to cover why you’re doing it, why the outlet should cover it (is it news), and why their audience should be interested in coming.
  3. If you’ve never spoken to the media before put some information about who you are in the second or third paragraph.
  4. Keep it short – ball park 500 words.
  5. Include quotes from a spokesperson – do as much work as possible for the journalist – if they don’t have to call you for follow up that works for them. Three sentences (or paragraphs) of quotes should suffice.
  6. Include a closing paragraph that contains a call to action – how can people register for an event? Who do they RSVP to? Media Releases are great to put on your website too, it won’t necessarily just be the journos reading them.
  7. Include contact details for follow up – and most importantly – be available for calls from a journo. They’re not going to follow you up just because you think your story is worth it (unless it really is). If it feels like covering the story is doing you a favour (and not a disservice) then treat it as such. If your availability is patchy put when you are free in the footer of your release.
  8. Send it first thing in the morning (if you want television coverage) or after lunch if you want to give the paper a free run at it. Remember that media releases need to be timely. Don’t send it six months out from the event (unless that’s when you need registrations).
  9. Remember that you won’t always get a response. That’s ok. Send releases regularly so that you can build a rapport and a reputation with the local media. If it’s your first release, or an important event, place a phone call to the newsroom’s chief of staff (not the editor) and make sure they received your release. Be prepared to talk them through your event – pitch it to them as a story that matters to their audience. It’s also ok to call before you send it to make sure you’ve got the address of the newsroom right – you may also need to fax a copy through.
  10. Remember that pictures are worth 1,000 words. Be prepared to have a quirky photo op lined up for a newspaper or some pictures for a TV station to shoot – TV stories without pictures are dead. Make it clear in your footer that you have opportunities for filming or photos – and be creative. Does your event involve people in costumes? Get someone on site in a costume. This will give your story the best possible chance for the best possible coverage.

Once your release is in the wild you need to play a little game I like to call “wait and see what happens”… if you do get a call from a journalist – relax. Take a deep breath. Most of them are nice people, and most of them aren’t out to build a reputation as a bloodhound who takes down churches and disgraces ministers. Here’s how to get the best out of your interaction with the media post release…

  1. Never ever, let me repeat, never ever say “no comment” or “I can’t answer that” – if you get a tough question just answer it without answering it. Learn from the politicians, turn the question into an opportunity to push your agenda. Say “it’s interesting that you ask that, I think it’s important, but right now we just want to tell you about…” if they ask again, say it again. Repeat ad nauseum. They’ll get sick of asking the same question before you get sick of answering it.
  2. Try to include the gospel – you never know what they won’t cut.
  3. Remember they’re looking for eight second sound grabs or two sentence print quotes. Try to be quotable, succinct, and interesting.
  4. Don’t wear stripes or loud colours for TV interviews.
  5. If you mispeak during an interview pause, correct yourself, and start the sentence again – unless you’re doing a live interview (which I don’t really recommend unless you’re pretty experienced). Be prepared to tell the journalist that you stuffed up and want a do over.
  6. Stick to your point – stick with what you know.
  7. A good journalist will ask you at the end “is there anything you’d like to add” – use this as an opportunity to make a clear statement about your event and why people should come… and then stick the gospel in there. Journalists need it too. Even if they cut it they’re hearing it.
  8. Act with integrity, smile, make small talk before the interview with the journo to make yourself comfortable.
  9. Remember to blink if you’re looking at a camera, breath, relax, look confident, look up not at your toes, look at the journo, not at the camera.
  10. Speak clearly. Deliver your words as though you’re speaking to a crowd, not just to one person. I have a theory that Camera presence comes from aiming your words to the back of the camera not the lens – like when you kick a soccer ball you try to hit the far side while connecting with the front, or when you hit a cricket ball you follow through…

If this all sounds too hard I’ve set up a fiverr task where you can pay me $5 to write you a ten line media release. If you want to use me more than once I’ll probably make you pay more – but I’m happy to help. And I’m always happy to read over something before you send it out…

Talkin’ bout a revolution

This video has been doing the rounds – on the fountainside, Communicate Jesus, and Dave Mier’s excellent blog. Blogs by Moore College students have a tendency to be pretty good. Anyway. It’s worth reposting here.

There are big lessons to be learned here for anybody in PR and anybody trying to sell, promote or communicate any message. Any communication strategy without a social networking strategy is pretty rubbish. Unless you’re targeting the geriatric market (which when the baby boomers become geriatrics will be a massive market. The biggest in fact.)

There’s an interesting little comment in the video that essentially says social networking is more popular than porn. Which will have interesting implications for the way technology is developed. Because if there’s one thing I learned at uni it’s that communication technology is driven by demand from the adult industry.

The song also has the most overused and hackneyed soundtrack for this sort of video – the “Right Here, Right Now” song.

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WWJS

Some churches just don’t get it. Particularly American churches – or at least in the case of the American churches I’m about to write about…

Just over a week ago a prominent late term abortionist was shot while attending his church. Those who are anti-abortion will no doubt not be grieving this loss as much as others – but most churches have been quick to condemn the killing (or at least to distance themselves from it).

Not these two…

The first, a church in Kentucky, is having an “open carry celebration day” – they want parishioners to bring their guns to church. Here’s what their “pastor” Ken Pagano has to say:

“As a Christian pastor I believe that without a deep-seeded belief in God and firearms that this country would not be here.”

Speaking about those objecting to his planned celebration he said:

“I understand their concerns and I applaud them for their expression because the whole point of this is to promote the First and Second Amendments.”

While he may not have made the link to the shooting directly – the journalist did – a link from the story’s intro takes you to the story about the killing.

Then there are those that have glorified in the killing…

I’m sure this is not the sort of commentary the church should be making about current events… nor the kind of mission Jesus gave us in the great commission.

But I propose, in order to take money out of the hands of these dangerous people, that we launch a range of Christian merchandise in the WWJS line – who/what would Jesus shoot… the money raised can be redirected to appropriate organisations like the Red Cross.

Testing times

Lately I’ve been thinking about how churches should harness the power of PR a little more – particularly regional churches in cities like Townsville – where there’s a strong local media contingent and not so much clamour for media attention. I’ll probably turn that into a post all of its own at some stage – but for now, I have a case study for your consideration…

A group of researchers set out to conduct a series of experiments testing prayer. Their findings created a difficulty for those people who expect science to be capable of testing everything… both Christians, and atheists…

Christians who think science can prove God struggle because the people being prayed for fared worse than the people not being prayed for – and atheists because they’ll often argue that prayer should have a demonstrable psychological placebo effect – which it didn’t.

Christianity Today found a somewhat unpredictable spin to put on events. The study was conducted a few years back, but this article was produced pretty recently. Here’s a description of the study:

“STEP was simple and elegant, conforming to standard research norms and protocols: 1,802 patients, all admitted for coronary artery bypass graft surgery, were divided into three randomized groups. Two of the groups received prayer from committed Christians with experience praying for the sick. But only one group’s members knew they were being prayed for. The result: The group whose members knew they were being prayed for did worse in terms of post-operative complications than those whose members were unsure if they were receiving prayer. The knowledge that they were being prayed for by a special group of intercessors seemed to have a negative effect on their health.”

Here’s the Christianity Today editorial on the results:

The real scandal of the study is not that the prayed-for group did worse, but that the not-prayed-for group received just as much, if not more, of God’s blessings.

It’s an odd interpretation of the results and doesn’t seem to mesh well with the study itself.

Here’s the Harvard Medical School Media Release on the study – and a better description of the methodology… You’ve got to wonder who set these parameters and actually thought they’d work. This doesn’t seem to come close to any Biblical picture of prayer…

“The researchers standardized the start and duration of prayers and provided only the patients’ first name and last initial. Prayers began on the eve or day of surgery and continued daily for 14 days. Everyone prayed for received the same standardized prayer. Providing the names of patients directed prayer-givers away from a desire to pray for everyone participating in the study. Because the study was designed to investigate intercessory prayer, the results cannot be extrapolated to other types of prayer.”

Sadly, the whole report is now going to be used by misguided atheists to bash all Christians over the head as they call for amputees to grow arms.