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Do you ever wonder how you can more effectively publicize activities sponsored by your church or organization? Are you aware that many radio and television stations will announce your event at no cost to you except postage?
Many stations broadcast a listing of events as a public service to most nonprofit organizations. These announcements may be aired only once a week or as often as many times throughout the day. Check with your local stations to see if they have such a service. If they do, find out what their limitations are concerning the amount of information they will run and what specifics they need to know. Also be sure to learn the deadline: how far in advance of the event they need to receive the notice.
Don’t overlook cable television if it operates in your area. Many cable systems have a channel set aside for weather, public service announcements, or community programming. Find out how to have your events aired. Make use of this service (which is usually free).
It is important that you follow the guidelines set up by the stations to which you send information. If they want the information sent on a post card or in a letter, don’t send a poster or a flyer. If they need an announcement in their hands two weeks before the event, make sure it gets there at least two weeks in advance. When a group sends an announcement to a station two days before an event and the station has a two-week deadline, the station may not run it. The station is frustrated because another group can’t follow the rules and the group is upset because they aren’t receiving the publicity they want.
You should be able to find a listing of all radio and television stations in your locality in the yellow pages of your phone directory. For information on stations outside your immediate area, check your local library or a local station to see if they have a copy of the Broadcasting Yearbook, which you can use, in connection with a map, to find nearby stations.
Start a file of stations. Copy down the call letters, the address, and the phone number for each. As you call each station to find out its policy concerning public service announcements or community events programming, add this information to the sheet for that particular station.
Any announcement should include the event, date, time, place, location (a street address and city), and the cost of the event, if any. You should also put a name, address, and phone number with your announcement where interested parties can write or call for further information. The station may also need this information to contact you should clarification or further information be needed.
Are there any other facts that you think are important? Is this an annual event? Say so. Is there a musical group coming to your church that has made records or toured internationally? Add it to the announcement. Most stations reserve the right to reject or edit any information sent to them. It won’t hurt to put down a few interesting facts.
A problem many people encounter when writing an announcement is editorializing. For example, “You’ll receive a great blessing from the fantastic music of.…” Those are your thoughts, and though you may think that they’re true, let the people who attend decide for themselves. Stations will generally edit these phrases out, so save yourself and them some time by omitting them.
If you don’t have a publicity director for your organization, find one. Is there anyone in your congregation who has had any journalism or broadcasting experience? Is there a high school or college student who has taken any journalism courses? Do you know anyone who can write? Not everyone can.
If you find someone to be your publicity director, you have won half the battle. Let him or her do all the writing so that all your announcements will have the same basic style. This person can also become familiar with your listing of stations and serve as the official contact between you and the station.
Cherie L. Nagy is acting news director of WUGN-FM, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.
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