by Kenny Jahng
“Great leaders don’t want attention, but they use it.” ~Seth Godin, author of Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us
Many of today’s church planters reach for a certain tool in their toolbox, but few understand the critical factors for using it in the right way. Without people in the community being aware of and talking about your ministry, the chances of making an impact and increasing attendance will surely be out of reach.
In my experience, successful ‘public relations’ depends on a keen understanding of what works regarding the second half of that phrase: relations. No one likes to meet someone that simply wants to talk about themselves all the time or resorts to superficial song and dance to attract attention. Media outlets and the local/regional community are no different (surprise surprise!).
So how do you attract media attention that will allow your ministry to influence the local public dialogue while serving to witness to the community at large? You will want to develop and share stories that consistently interest and engage your target audience. For this, there are certain types of stories that have a higher relational pull in print, video or on the web.
Here are 3 ways to do it using the T.E.D. Framework for attractional PR that I’ve developed over the years:
T = TRENDS. As a church planter, you have already been studying the economic, social and cultural lines being drawn around town. Becoming the voice that calls out what is happening without notice or emerging to become the way of the immediate future allows you to lead the discourse in the public square. Commentary and contrast articles about current issues can help to define your relevance to the community. Parenting and education issues, status of cultural arts, or economic shifts that are changing how families live might be stories worth calling out to show how your church is being a resource, advocate or conversation partner.
E = EVENTS. Take what you’ve already planned to infuse into your ministry’s DNA and translate it into events can serve as an entry point which gets noticed. It is also a way that many people might find inviting outside of Sunday services. What community service outreach events can you announce to invite broader participation? How can you use your already-rented venue as a place to plan something with another community organization as a partner? Can you tie-in a popular news feature to something in your church community life or preaching calendar?
D = DATA. Become the invaluable authority and resource for the community while positioning the church at the center of the public square. Carry out and publish results of surveys that clarify issues top of mind to surrounding residents. Polls are inexpensive and effective ways of becoming a trusted authority across various areas. What are residents complaining about? Find tangible data points that prove or dispel the issues at hand.
With these three basic types of stories, you can start to become noticed not just for existing on the street corner, but also for thoughtful entry into the life of the community.
Approaching local offline and online media outlets with these types of pre-produced suggested pieces or press releases doesn’t just attract attention, it harnesses it.