The Secret to Complete News Stories

First-time-in-charge-news-stories-smallWe’ve all done it. We write a blog post or news announcement, hit publish and then realize we missed a key fact. Well, it was all there in my head. Just not all made it on the page.

There’s a useful tip from public relations that can help you write complete news stories. It’s the Five Ws and an H.

Using this model as a framework, it’s easy to write a first draft. It requires listing Who, What, Where, Why, When, Where, and How. The order can be changed, as long as you cover each point. The Journalistics blog gives this example using the story of the Three Little Pigs.

  • Who was involved? The three little pigs (the first pig, the second pig and the third pig) and The Big Bad Wolf (a.k.a. Wolf).
  • What happened? Each pig constructed a house out of different materials (straw, sticks and bricks). Wolf (allegedly) threatened to blow over their houses and is believed to have destroyed both the straw and stick homes at this time. Pig one and two were able to flee to the brick house, where they remain at the moment. We’re still waiting to hear from local authorities, but it looks like the Wolf may have been injured while attempting to enter the brick house.
  • Where did it take place? Outside a straw house, a stick house and a brick house.
  • When did it take place? At various times throughout the day.
  • Why did it happen? Apparently the Big Bad Wolf was trying to eat the pigs. Several eyewitnesses recall the Wolf taunting the pigs before he destroyed the straw and stick homes by chanting, “Little pigs, little pigs, let me in.” The pigs apparently scoffed at the Wolf’s idle treats, saying “Not by the hair of our chinny, chin chins.” It’s believed this angered the Wolf and led to him blowing the houses down.
  • How did it happen? It would appear the first two homes were not built to withstand the Wolf’s powerful breath. The incident inside the brick house is still being investigated, but early indications suggest the Wolf fell into a boiling pot of water when trying to enter the house through the chimney.

If you’re like me and prefer to hand write the first draft, here’s a worksheet we made for today’s First Time in Charge clergy session.

Do you have any other tips for writing complete news stories? Please share in the comments.

It’s Nice to be Validated

Since I first started here, I have talked to hundreds of people representing numerous churches.  Invariably, one of their questions is “how do we attract new people?”  There is obviously no magic bullet that will make it happen, but I tell them to keep their website current, be real and authentic about who you are, don’t talk in “church-ese” and make a safe place for people to experience worship.

Lo and behold, here is a blog post which pretty much echos what I have been saying.  Thank you Rachel Held Evans for the validation!

Holy Week Debrief – A Rant and a Rave

Holy Week, one of the busiest and most emotionally draining times of the church year has just completed and we have entered into the Easter season.  Before it gets too far out of our thoughts, I would like to offer a critique of how this week was offered online.

If you have been reading any of my blog postings or attended any of my workshops, you will know that I am a firm believer that digital media (websites, social media, email ) is the way that society is moving toward communicating, especially with the under 45 demographic.   Therefore, important events should be easy to find and prominent on your website and/or social media sites.  While a number of churches in the diocese did have their Holy Week schedule on their website, for many of them it was not prominent or easy to find.

People who are looking for service times or information on events expect it to be a simple and easy task.  Having to navigate a menu to find this, or open a document once the information is found may not seem like a big deal to existing members of a church, but these are extra steps that newcomers and visitors find distracting, frustrating and unfriendly.  Since you only have a few seconds once someone comes to your site to get their attention and give them the information they are seeking, it’s imperative to make it as smooth and painless as possible.

There are some churches in the diocese that did a great job of showing their Holy Week information in an easy and inviting way.  Here are some samples that can be used as ideas for next year’s Holy Week.

Good Shepherd, Vancouver has a carousel on their site which makes displaying this information easy to do.

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Redeemer, Kenmore used video to help promote their Holy Week services

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St. Hugh in Allyn simply put the information on the homepage. Nothing fancy, but it served the purpose of getting the information out there to visitors and seekers

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Finally St. Paul in Bellingham put in a separate block underneath their welcome message for their Holy Week offerings.

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These are just a few of the ideas that can be used to promote the important events in the life of your faith community.  Remember it doesn’t have to be fancy or artistic, but it makes a huge difference in being a welcoming place for visitors and newcomers.

Using Photos of Children

One of the most common questions that I am asked when I do workshops on website design and social media is “What about photos of children, what are the guidelines?”  I will talk about needing permissions, how to (or not) identify them and then go on to the broader topic of photos of people in general.  I was about to write something on this, but one of my Episcopal Communicator compadres at the Diocese of Newark, Nina Nicholson, has written a very good piece on this subject on her blog “Geeks for God“.  It has good, practical tips and even includes verbiage for crafting a release form!  Do check it out.  Thanks, Nina!

Sacramental Social Media

One of my favorite go-to sites for church stuff is ECF Vital Practices.  They are a terrific resource and this post is no exception.  This excerpt encapsulates so much of what I tell people, it is nice to know others are saying the same:
“Going to a Facebook page or a Twitter account and finding it dormant sends a symbolic message: nothing is happening here. Better not to have a social media account at all (which is a legitimate choice). But an active page can be evidence that your community is a place with life that shows the love of God to each other and those who visit.”
You can read the entire post here.

Web Trends for the New Year

One of the great things about what I do is trying to stay current on technologies and trends and then passing them on to others.  This link came across the Episcopal Communicators Facebook page and I think it is quite timely.  We are looking to redo the ecww.org site next year and these tips fall in line with what I have seen evolving.

Websites should be reviewed on a regular basis to make sure it fits the mission and goals of your faith community.  A website should be updated/refreshed/overhauled every 18-36 months.  Take a look at your church website.  Is it showing its age and looking a little tired?  Make a New Year’s resolution to spruce up you site in 2014.  Do you need some assistance or consultation?  Contact me and I will be happy to send you resources or if you are in the Diocese of Olympia, I will come out and meet with you.

There are lots of options to choose from.  Get in touch with me.  Let’s get crackin’!

Can You “Like” God?

For people who are “digital immigrants” ( basically those over 40), the idea of social media is somewhat confusing.  When you add religion into the social media mix,  it can get even more convoluted.  What is spirituality, what is community?  How do you have a religious encounter through technology?  The program New Tech City on WNCY in New York City has a very thoughtful an interesting segment on this topic.  It doesn’t answer all the questions and it certainly isn’t a magic bullet, but it is something that every church needs to address at some level if it wants to be relevant in the next few years.  Thanks to Faith Rowold at Episcopal Relief and Development for passing this on.  There is also a nice little shout-out to Trinity Wall Street in the piece!

Tech Support Exposed!

As part of my duties here, I am called upon for computer or tech support help.  This comes from co-workers, church administrators, clergy, web designers, you name it.  I came across this picture from xkcd.com which totally explains how it’s done.  Now to get ready for convention…..tech_support_cheat_sheet

Is Your Church an Embezzler’s Dream?

Normally this blog site deals with technology issues and trends  that I think are worthwhile pieces of information for people doing digital technology for their faith communities.  However, our Canon for Finance, Chris Smith-Clark has brought to my attention some good tips on protecting your organization from “financial chicanery”.  I am posting her article here and hope you will take it to heart. Continue reading Is Your Church an Embezzler’s Dream?