Working with the media
There are two main reasons a house of worship, camp or other nonprofit organization could end up in the news: Either the news outlet is covering something unique and special about an event, activity, program or person in your organization - or something bad happened. In either situation, you need to understand the appropriate way to interact with the media. Church Mutual has put together a few tips you can use when telling the media about the good you are doing, and when responding to a crisis.
- Designate a member of your organization to write press releases when something interesting is happening. Examples of potential reasons for a press release include a unique event, a new leader in your organization or a special project someone is planning.
- Choose carefully when deciding the type of media to which you want to pitch stories. Television news reporters, for example, want highly visual stories so they have plenty of options for footage. Local newspapers like to feature people and groups from their town.
- When possible, create relationships with members of the media. If an editor, producer or reporter knows you and your organization, they are more likely to pay attention when you alert them to news or feature stories.
Despite all your best efforts and precautions, things can sometimes go wrong—misconduct of a staff or board member or volunteer, a tragic accident, a natural disaster or an armed intruder situation. A crisis management plan can help you respond when the worst happens. Communicating with the media is a vital part of that plan.
- Determine which member of your organization will be the spokesperson. It’s important that all communication with the media is filtered through this person. You may choose to have a different person speak in a specific situation, but the main spokesperson should always be involved in some way.
- Always keep your staff in the communication loop. The last thing you want is for your staff to learn about something important involving your organization in the media.
- It’s OK to not answer a reporter’s question. If the reporter’s questions are consistently negative, you can recognize the legitimacy of the question, remove the negative part and respond with your key message or statement of fact. You can also answer with phrases such as, “I’m not qualified to answer that question, but I can tell …” or “It’s our policy not to comment on rumors and speculation.”
For more information about crisis management planning and other risk management resources, visit churchmutual.com. If you are experiencing a major crisis, you can reach out to us for support and assistance.