January 2011

All of us would like to have good media relations with our local paper or TV station.  Weblog are always looking for new and different stories.  They want you to give them information, especially if you give them good stories that is well edited.   

Ten Do’s and Don’ts for Successful Media Relations

These tips were distributed by Joyce Wilden, Public Relations Director, Mercedes Homes Inc.

  1. Do return phone calls.  Always, always, always.  Even if it’s just to say, “Thanks so much for the call, but we don’t have anything to contribute to this story.  Please call us the next time.”
  2. Do respect deadlines.  Everything a reporter, editor, free lancer or staff writer does, involves a deadline.  By the time they contact you, the clock is already ticking.  If they don’t volunteer their deadline, ask.
  3. Don’t send more information than is needed.  If you’re emailing or faxing information, highlight or bold the important stuff.  Don’t make them look for a needle in a haystack – because they may not find it and will have to use whatever they did find for the story.    
  4. Don’t ever ask to “check” an article ahead of time.  This is considered insulting to a news professional. If you’re concerned about the writer getting the nuances right, you can always email a bulleted list recapping your top points, etc.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask for the questions in writing.  Many writers are happy to oblige, as it signals your willingness to help them.  This can sometimes be preferable to “winging it” during a free-wheeling conversation where you could end up saying more than you intended.
  6. Do send photos.  You may already have terrific shots that will add to the article and save the writer time dispatching a photographer.  Agree on appropriate file size and format before emailing.  Win-win. 
  7. Do pitch your own story idea. If you don’t have something to contribute to the story that’s being developed.  Sometimes writers can go back to their editors and change the story focus if you’ve got something interesting.  Win-win.
  8. Do submit your own material – and tell them they are free to use it as their own.  If you have (non-proprietary) material you’ve written and it can be easily adapted for all or part of a story, hand it over with your blessing and let your ego take a back seat.  Keep the goal in mind: you want exposure in the media; they want a story. Win-win.
  9. Don’t badmouth one reporter to another or go on about a past bad experience you had with another writer, paper, etc.  No one will take kindly to your trashing one of their own.  Plus, they really don’t care about your experience. They’ve got a story to get out.
  10. Do send an email of thanks after a good article appears or a story runs.  If a concept or point is mistaken, contact the reporter so that they can have the correct information for any related stories they may be planning.  If there is an egregious error –ask for a printed correction.

I would add some additional tips.

  1. Don’t speak in the Language of Zion.  Be sure that everyone will understand your terms and termonology.  More and more, our society is becoming secularized. 
  2. Don’t be religious.  Remember Christianity is a relationship with God–much more than a religion.  The more relational you can make your information, the more likely you will have that your piece will be used.
  3. Tell the story of your ministry.  Don’t sermonize.

Created to Make Choices

Romans 14:12

Central Theme:   God gave us the ability to make good and bad choices.

Introduction–I went to a pastor’s meeting and was forced into taking a job I did not want.  In reality I made a choice to do the job. Each of us have choices and make choices.  We will have an opportunity to talk to God about all the choices we make.  Have a member read Romans 14:12.

       I.     Tell the story of Adam and Eve

              1.  Eve was deceived but she made a choice.

              2.  Adam was not deceived, he chose to follow Eve.

      II.     There are two kinds of choices that we make.

              A. We are tricked into making the wrong choice.

                   1.  We find ourselves in a place where we know what we should do but we choose to do something that is wrong.

                   2.  We might be tricked, or pressured, or forced but we make the choice

              B. We decide on our own to do what we do.

     III.     Each of us make choices each day and we will talk to God in prayer about the choices we make.    

Conclusion–Jesus helps us to make good choices in our lives.

After meeting with Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos, these men and women, representatives of the mentally challenged community, spoke with the Senate Committee studying the possibility of putting all people with developmental disabilities under HPO’s.  At times, we believe that we cannot make a difference.  However, these men and women spoke to politicians; and they could have changed their minds about changes in our health care system in Florida.

People First of Brevard and Florida Senator Mike Haridopolos

This a comment from Tony Piantine who heads Camp Daniel Ministries in Wisconsin.  I loved what he had to say about prayer and I was concerned that you might miss it.  Therefore, I’m including it as a post.

At our weekly Camp Daniel Staff meetings we finish in prayer.  Each of us takes a turn around the table. Hearing each other pouring out our hearts to God has been more impacting than our Bible studies or the words spoken to each other on a consistent basis.

These spoken prayers have brought unity and bound us together like I never thought prayer could.  I often think that we overlook how powerful prayer is when we pray with each other.  Perhaps it is even more powerful than when we pray for each other.   

I think that when we pray in unity with others we are letting each other touch the Jesus in our hearts that sometimes we keep covered. That touch is what we need more than anything. Thank you for sharing your yourself with us and your family’s prayers. We join you in prayer for Frank and your entire family during this hard time.

Thank you, Tony for this word of truth.  I was especially touched by what Tony wrote about the mighty power of prayer when we pray, out loud, with each other.  At Special Gathering, there are several things which impress visitors.  Often, one of our members is asked to pray out loud during the service.  The most impressive, however, is when our members pray for each other.  This is one of the most vital parts of our worship services.   Also, thank you, Tony and  all who pray and have prayed for me and my husband.  We are blessed.

At times, I’ve been hesitant to pray for our members.  Even in the hospital, there doesn’t seem to be a time or place that is appropriate or convenient.  Do I interrupt family members to pray?  Do I insist on praying?  What about the awkwardness that is always present?  What if  the family members are not Christians?  Will my prayer offend them?  What if these are dedicated people of prayer?  Do they really need my feeble attempt at prayer?

A couple of weeks ago, I visited a Christian man who is dying.  His children, Special Gathering volunteers, had asked me to visit him in ICU.  I spent a few minutes.  As I was gathering my things to leave, one family member bluntly said, “You can’t leave before you pray.”  Even though my prayer was fumbling, short and abruptly to the point, the family hugged me and thanked me with such gracious warmth that I knew God had used the prayer to comfort them.  I was grateful.

After my husband’s extended time in the hospital, I’ve concluded that prayer can be some of the best medicine that the patient or family can receive.  Our children and grandchildren came to visit us for the holidays.  Honestly, gathering around my husband’s bedside was uncomfortable.  With all of us, there were eight people squeezed into the small space.  It was awkward and uncomfortable.  The other patient’s family was also there.  At times, there were two hospital beds with ten to 12 people smashed into a ten feet by ten feet area.  However, that didn’t stop my son-in-law, Rev. Brian Merritt from praying.  He never allowed us to leave Frank’s bedside without prayer. 

I cannot tell you how grateful I am for Brian’s boldness and for his sensitive prayers.  While I love both of my sons-in-law and appreciate their faithful and godly lives, Brian insistence on praying for Frank blessed me more than I can express.  And he taught me several good lessons.

First, his spoken prayer had added power to deliver and bless us.  I know that everyone in that room was praying for our husband, father and grandfather.  Yet, it was Brian’s spoken prayer that set me free from the burden of the hour. 

Second, prayer is always appropriate and usually welcome.  Of course, I never pray without first asking permission.  I simply say, “Before I leave, can I pray?”  Most of the families, who are involved or whose children are involved in our ministry, will welcome prayer as much as I did.  Additionally, I learned that my words are not as important as my acknowledgement of my desperate need for a healing, redemptive God.

One of the most effective prayers for me came from Judy whose disability is Downs Syndrome.  Until her family moved to be with her sister, she was a Special Gathering member.  She was a part of this ministry for most of her life.  Judy was a deacon in our Cocoa program. 

In the earlier years of our ministry about 15 years ago, the full-time pastors would travel from one program to another on Sunday.  Often, I would start in Melbourne and end up in Cocoa.  That morning had been perplexing for me.  My sound equipment had not worked in Melbourne.  Complications with my husband’s health were plaguing us, even in those days.  Automotive problems had threatened to make me late in Cocoa.  When I arrived, I could not find a parking place so I had to walk several blocks to the chapel.  Ripping on my clerical robe as I bounded toward the chancel area, I had entered the chapel hurried, perplexed and flustered.

With someone else in charge of praise and worship, I was able to relax a bit before I delivered the devotions but my mind felt as though it was drowning in deep waters of frustration.  Busily reviewing recent annoyances, it refused to be released from the struggles of the morning.  Even joining the worship of our members could not stop the internal commotion.  Almost unconsciously, I prayed, Lord, how will I be able to teach about your grace and peace, if I don’t have any?

Judy, a member of the choir, sat close to me.  In fact, because the chancel area was so small her knee not only touched mine, our legs almost tangled around each other.  During one of the worship songs, Judy reached over and prayed, “Lord, Linda had bad day.  Help her right now.  She needs it.”  Instantly, the pain, hurt and frustration evaporated.  It was such an amazing miracle that remembering the impact of her prayer brings tears to my eyes after all these years. 

There have been oodles of books written about prayer.  Googling prayer gives you 32,800,000 results.  I love studying about prayer and meditation.  However, Judy never read a book or an article on prayer.  She prayed.  That was enough for God to do a miracle for this needy child. 

Learning from Judy, I’ve deliberately made my prayers for my members more compact.  God knows the heart.  He doesn’t need flowering words of give answers that result in changed lives.

The executive director of Special Gathering, Richard Stimson, often explains the powerful influence his twin brother who is mentally challenged exerts on his life.  Nevertheless, he also says that his brother is not the reason that he started the ministry.  It was the call of God that determined his vocation.  Regardless, it is an interesting fact that many siblings are drawn into social service positions.  There appears to be a strong attraction within the human spirit that draws people to this cloistered sub-culture. 

When Laura was a child, the Lord led her parents to volunteer with Special Gathering.  During those years, she was like any other child tagging along with parents.  More times than not, she resented the fact that her Sunday afternoons were occupied with ministry tasks, rather than play.   Now, Laura is a mother. Recently, she made the decision to also become a volunteer with a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  One of her main reasons was for her children to come to know this population.  “I want my girls to have the advantage I had of being exposed to the mentally challenged community at an early age,” she told her mother.

 While no more was said, this young mother believes that the development of her children will be enhanced by establishing a relationship with people who are developmentally disabled.  Beyond a doubt, there are great benefits associated by fostering a friendship with a man, woman or child who is mentally challenged.  Thomas’ brother was mentally challenged, born with Cerebral Palsy (CP).  I’ve been Thomas’ friend for about three years but somehow he had missed that my ministry was within the disability population.  When he learned about Special Gathering, his eyes widened; and he grabbed the table where he was sitting as though trying to keep himself from jumping up from his seat, “Can I come?  I would love to be a part of that!” he said with more enthusiasm than I’d ever seen him express. 

The blessings of the Lord rest on The Special Gathering in a unique way.  There are several reasons but the most glaring one is the population that we serve is loved with by God with passion.

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