Boosting Your Community with PR

It’s become an age-old question: How can we get more outside publicity for our churches and organizations?

I hear it. You hear it. Everyone seems to hear it. And it’s an appalling issue in most cases. We have these important events and the papers don’t seem to give a hoot. All you want is a little public relations notice in your community papers and it’s like pulling teeth.

As someone who’s been in the business for 50 years, I’m hearing you. Boston conducted a most impressive Centennial observance in April. Thousands of people showed up. The mayor and governor were there. So were Congressional leaders Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey.

Yet you would never know it by watching the news and reading the next day’s papers. I saw a five-second snippet on Fox News. Other stations didn’t even give it that much notice. Same boycott every year.

Similar inertia could be reported for events in D.C. With VP Joe Biden’s presence and both Catholicoi, along with other religious leaders, what media coverage came out of it? Virtually nothing!

I’ll tell you what grabbed their attention: when vandals one year climbed up a building and defaced one of Daniel Varoujan Hejinian’s genocide billboards he puts up every year around Greater Boston.

It took a vile and vindictive act to get the media interested.

I remember a priest later saying in front of a crowd, “If that’s what it takes to get some notice, perhaps we should have more acts of vandalism to our billboards and public notices.”

He had a point. A tribute to 1.5 million martyrs on a 100th milestone paid little or no heed by the press or TV stations. Deface a billboard and they all take notice.

So, how can we rectify ourselves? It may be our fault, folks, not the media’s. They’re short on staff and weekends are an added burden. So maybe we must take matters into our own hands and act as volunteer correspondents if we want coverage.

Perhaps we should approach our community papers and TV stations with a deal they can’t refuse. We take the pictures, give them a write-up or a CD, and ease their burden. We could act as their emissaries.

It’s worked for me. It could work for you. In every community, there must be someone who’s adept with a camera and can take a few pictures. Any more than a half-dozen shots would be inundating these papers. Get someone to write up a short article, not a thesis. Doesn’t even have to be a journalism major, just someone good with the written word. The key word is being “responsible.”

Why am I on this bandwagon today? Because I hear about PR shortcomings from other cities, but not my own. We have no problem here. I write a release and send it out to half a dozen papers with a couple pictures, whether it’s a dance, anniversary, or political event.

Three may publish the piece in its entirety. The other three will use a condensed version. But they’re appreciative of my services.

As a newly elected NRA delegate to the Prelacy Convention, I came prepared to grow involved. I wanted to make a difference among my fellow delegates and decided this would be a perfect opportunity to organize a public relations platform.

We broke up into splinter groups and one of them addressed this very subject—how to get increased exposure for your church events. If it works in Merrimack Valley, why can’t it work in other places? The end result was to pitch a seminar in each of the three districts: New England, Mid-West, and Mid-Atlantic.

In New England, more than 30 representatives showed up throughout the Eastern Prelacy, hosted by St. Stephen’s Church. Rev. Archpriest Antranig Baljian did yeoman’s work in getting the word out. The Ladies’ Guild served up a wonderful luncheon and we invited two guest lectures:

Nanore Barsoumian represented the Armenian Weekly and we had Stephen Kurkjian, a three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist from the Boston Globe. Much emphasis was paid to the internet and social media circles in this computer age.

Story ideas for each parish were hashed out, along with recommendations on how to penetrate different media sources. More ideas emanated from cluster groups. The forum proved informative with strong social values further enhancing the event.

Kurkjian emphasized two important stories that had penetrated the Armenian community at the time: efforts to display the Armenian Orphan Rug locked in storage inside the White House and the Armenian Heritage Park Memorial in Boston.

He also encouraged parishes to better expose the personal side of each church community, particularly with stories on the emergence of our youth population.

All said and done, let’s remember this idiom: The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Source: Armenian Weekly Mid-West