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Serra Club Communications

"There Is No Story Until It Is Told"

The image of your Serra club and the degree of attention given to vocations in your community do not happen by chance. An image and a sense of urgency are created by design. A Serra club can achieve this with a sound public relations program.

Public relations differs from advertising in that it cannot be bought. It is the science of placing the organization and its goals before the eye of the public often through the news media. The impact of a club's public relations and communications program should be to inform and educate your Catholic community about Serra's objectives and moreover, that all Serra activities are designed to further them.

Wide and informed knowledge of Serra will create a positive atmosphere to enable every Serran to better accomplish the objectives. In fact, a good communications program is the backbone of a Serra club and will benefit every club committee.

Share News within Serra

On the local club level:

distribute regular mailings, and

publish an informative newsletter.

On the District level:

inform the district governor and governor-elect club news and events

provide information for the district newsletter.

On the National level:

submit successful club activities to the serraUSA Magazine to dialogue on topics of current interest, to share your club's achievements and activities with other Serra clubs.

Include a black and white photo with your story if possible.

Share Serra with the Community

Public relations is the principal responsibility of the vice president for communications and his or her committee -- sharing information about Serra's work and objectives with the community.

The public image of your Serra club and local vocation awareness do not happen by chance. With good planning and some simple skills, you will be most successful in keeping Serra and vocations in the forefront of public awareness.

Ways to Share Serra

Personal Public Relations

Every Serran is needed to help further the objectives of Serra through his or her personal actions. A few words spoken to an acquaintance about vocations at a social gathering or a short chat about Serra with a business associate can have a great impact.

Each Serran needs to be aware that he or she is Serra to the people he or she knows, and that it is important to talk about Serra with friends and acquaintances.

Sometimes even veteran Serrans have a difficult time responding briefly and clearly to the often-asked question, "What is Serra?" The vice president for communications and his or her committee should remind club members to have a simple, clear answer prepared.

Brief examples help describe the rather complex concept of Serra:

"What is Serra?"

"Serra is a Catholic organization of laypersons concerned with vocations--priesthood and the religious life. Our Serra club, among other activities, sponsors an annual vocation discernment retreat for young adults and hosts a colloquium at the university on business ethics."

"Serra is a Catholic organization for laypersons. We belong to different parishes in town, but we are all interested in the future of ministry in the Church. We sell a vocation calendar every year and try to encourage parishioners to pray for vocations."

"Serra is a lay Catholic organization that promotes vocations to priesthood and religious life, and helps me to be a better informed layperson. Speakers at out meetings discuss current issues in the Church, and we are forming vocation awareness committees in every parish in the area."

Speakers Bureau

Some Serra clubs have a speakers bureau and make arrangements for their members to speak to other organizations and schools. The speaking engagements spread the news about Serra and the need for vocations.

Audiotape and Videotape Library

The Serra Club should compile a library of audio and video tapes that may be used in the community to educate and illustrate the need for Church vocations.

Many audiotapes and videotapes are available from USA Council of Serra International and other Religious Vocation organizations. Contact USA Council of Serra International for a free catalog of videos available from that office.

Other resources include the public library, religious bookstores, and religious AV companies.

Publish a Serra Club Newsletter

The Serra Club Newsletter has overwhelming importance in a Serra Clubs' effort to share Serra within the community. At the forefront, it informs the club membership of scheduled club activities and provides that information to the local community.

The following suggestions are intended to make the publishing of a Serra Club newsletter less intimidating for the those who are responsible for producing it, the volunteer editor, communications vice president, or club secretary.

Because many communications vice presidents and newsletter editors have seldom had previous experience in communications work or newsletter writing, this information is meant to be a useful tool in starting and maintaining a club newsletter.

Elements of a Serra Club Newsletter

Club newsletter logo

A calendar of upcoming meetings or events including time and place of club meetings

Short reflection from the chaplain

Serra Club Officer elections

Any local news involving the club or club members

Serra Club committee reports of importance

A report on recent meetings and events already including a summary of the programs presented and results of the event

To inform new and prospective members of club activities

To inform and communicate with the local clergy and the religious of the area on the activities of your Serra Club

To emphasize district, national and International activities, initiatives and programs.

Help is available

The USA Council encourages all clubs to publish a newsletter to help keep members abreast of club news, meetings, schedule changes, introductions to new members and other valuable information. Most clubs accomplish this with a paper newsletter that is mailed to all members between meetings, but the Internet is becoming more and more useful tool in this increasingly paperless society.

If you'd like to create a club newsletter that can be created easily and e-mailed instantly, check out the Serra Club Communication and Newsletters Portal service created and privately maintained by Southwind Technologies. For a monthly fee plus a one-time set-up charge, your club can create and deliver e-newsletters every month. (Note: Proceeds from this service do not go to the USA Council of Serra International.)

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Four Steps to Good Public Relations

1. Make Contacts

Some very important allies in your public relations program will include:

i. religion editors of local newspapers

ii. editors of parish bulletins

iii. editors of Diocesan and National Catholic newspapers

iv. broadcast personnel

These people you will need to know. Since, editors and program directors are interested in getting to know you as a news sources.

Establish a working relationship by writing or visiting editors in your area especially the editors of your diocesan newspapers, parish bulletins and parish newsletters.

Questions to ask each editor are:

i. When is the deadline for copy?

ii. How copy should be presented?

iii. Does the publication use photos?

iv. Should they be black and white?

v. What size?

Be prepared to answer their questions about general and specific programs of your Serra club for the coming year. In fact, bring along a concise description of Serra and your club activities to leave behind.

2. Gather Tools

Effective "tools" for good publicity are:

i. a list of media contacts' names and addresses

ii. the Serra Communications manual

iii. the media contact will provide you with guidelines to follow in preparing copy for them;

iv. a well-outlined program of important events and special projects for the whole club year;

v. a calendar keep tack of coming events, deadlines to plan future stories

3. Discern What is News

Journalists work with two types of stories: news and features. News is time-related, usually a specific event or something resulting from an event. A feature is not time-related, often an interview, human interest story or a more in-depth article on an issue rather than an event.

Not everything a Serra club does is news. But a lot of things taking place regularly will be news for at least one medium. Here are some of them:

i. The election of club officers or the appointment of a chaplain.

ii. The club's yearly schedule of programs with the central theme, if there is one.

iii. The appointment of any committee chairpersons or members.

iv. Advance stories on any special anniversaries and club activities being planned to observe them, e.g. Serra International Founder's Day, or your charter night.

v. Advance stories on any special events:

vi. Presentation of an award to a club member (e.g. "Outstanding Serran") or to the club (e.g. the Fr. Junipero Serra Award).

vii. District, area and international meetings and conventions and which members of your club will be attending.

These suggestions should give you an idea of what kind of information concerning your regular activities will be of interest to your various news sources. There will be other suggestions developing as your club program develops:

i. new projects,

ii. outstanding speakers for a club meeting or other event,

iii. community service projects, and

iv. special honors accorded a Serran.

Issue a Challenge

Issue a challenge to the officers and trustees of your club: "Give us something to publicize" and they will respond.

When they are made aware of the need to do noteworthy things for the good of the Church, for vocations and for the spirituality of the individual Serran, they are more apt to develop programs and projects which gave good news value.

Topics for Feature Stories

The media are always looking for a good idea or angle on a story. Take the initiative to suggest a feature story or two to the media from time to time. Topics include:

i. vocations,

ii. the dilemmas of the Christian in the work world,

iii. a profile of a member who is active in a particular ministry.

4. Get Your Story to the Right Audience

It has been said that the difference between the amateur publicist and the novice is that the amateur thinks of the story while the professional thinks of the audience. Decide what audience you wish to reach:

i. Do you want to make Serra better known in the club area?

ii. Do you want to build membership in the club?

iii. Do you want to motivate lay people to work for vocations?

iv. Do you need support from the general public for a fundraising venture?

v. Do you want to tell Catholic pastors of the area on the worth and accomplishments of your club?

vi. Do you want the general public to know how Serra works to create a culture for vocations in your community?

When you have decided this, relate your story to the interest of the audience that you are seeking to influence. Then concentrate your efforts on the news media that will reach that audience.

The Mechanics of Publicity: Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a News Release?

A news release is the story you write to let the media know about your club news. Using news releases makes the task easier both for you and for the editor. The editor receives a story already written which can easily be adapted to suit his or her needs.

How do I write a News Release?

Five points are important in correctly prepared news release: WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, and WHY. If possible, a sixth, HOW, should be included. Get all of these points into the "lead" sentences of your story.

What is a "Lead"?

The first two or three sentences of a story are called the "lead." A good lead captures the attention of a reader or listener and makes him or her want to know more about your club's activity or project. Go into the details of your story. Each succeeding paragraph should be of declining importance.

What is the "Inverted Pyramid" Method?

The "inverted pyramid" is a writing technique used by professionals in which the most important information goes in the first paragraph with less important information to follow. It permits an editor to pick up the important facts of a story in the first new lines. Then, if the editor does not have space or time to use the whole release, he or she can cut it from the bottom where least important details are given. This is true of both print and broadcast media.

What is a Style Sheets?

Newspapers and magazines generally have a style sheet. Style sheets give the rules on how their editors capitalize, abbreviate, spell and punctuate copy that they publish.

How do I include a photo with my story?

The newspaper may have its own photographer take the photos, or your club may be asked to supply prints. Check with your local newspaper editor to find out exactly what the practice is. If you will supply photos, it is wise investment to hire a photographer. Submit black and white photos. Plan action photos. They will capture the interest of the editor and the readers.

What is the photo Caption Style?

Editors will tell you how to prepare and attach captions to any photographs you submit. In general, type the caption on a slip of paper the width of the photo. Affix the caption to the back of the photo with caption showing beneath the photo. Fold the caption up over the photo face.

What is a Public Service Announcement?

The radio or television Public Service Announcement (PSA) is a way your club can announce events of public interest.

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