In this information age, when the church competes with Internet, television, video games, and smart phones for the attention of the congregation, how can you capture the attention of your readers? The church must develop attention-grabbing, high impact material that meets the following criterion.
Most publications and television spots operate on short bursts of information. Today’s audience is conditioned to commercials and sound bytes that cram a week’s worth of information into 60 seconds.
Keep your articles brief! Make use of bullet points. Avoid wordiness or flowery language. This is especially true when writing for the web. Keep it short, simple, and to the point.
Information is useless if inaccurate. In a nutshell, every article should answer the following questions, sometimes called the five Ws of journalism:
- Who is sponsoring an event, or who did something worthy of others reading about it?
- What is the event or reason for offering information to the public?
- When will the event be held, or when was it accomplished?
- Where will the meeting or event occur?
- Why is it important enough to mention?
All of the Ws need not be mentioned in the first sentence of the article, but the article should be worded in such a way that readers continue until they have learned all of the important information.
Most church members are not news reporters, but every church has someone who can put together a quality publication by following some simple rules.
- Meet deadlines. Without deadlines, nothing gets printed. Planning is the key. This means your church must be proactive, planning for events far in advance.
- Publish frequently. From church newsletters to the website, the key to today’s fast-paced world of media is updated information. Keep news fresh. Change your website often. Be consistent with newsletters. Keep it moving. Never let your publications become stale.
- Use volunteers. Pull articles from a wide variety of sources to keep one person from getting burned out.
- Be creative. Add a different twist; use a story, song lyrics, a compelling question, or an intriguing headline. Today’s reader pauses less than five seconds before moving to the next page, link, or channel. If you do not grab the attention of your audience immediately, you lose them.
- Be practical. As your plan your publication, ask yourself, “How can I help my readers?” Include details, suggestions, and items that will change your readers’ lives. Practical, useful information keeps them coming back.
Aboutthe Writer: Pastor Charles Ferguson has a journalism degree from Marshall University in West Virginia, and has served as newspaper reporter and editor in West Virginia and Florida.
Adapted from Contact magazine, April 2000.