January 2020

TO:                      The New York Annual Conference
FROM:                 Thomas J. Bickerton, Resident Bishop
RE:                      Guidelines for Communicating with the Media 

Our churches and local office have received a number of calls from both the local and national media since the release of the Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation proposal
on January 3, 2020. This is not unexpected.
We trust that our church leaders (lay and clergy) are well-versed in how to engage with the media
on “routine matters.” Yet many of the calls since the release of the Protocol are anything but routine. To help you balance the natural desire to be transparent and cooperative with a practical approach, below is guidance on how best to proceed.
This advice can help you with general media management at any point. In the current media environment, however, it is an essential course of action for inquiries that pertain specifically to the future of the denomination or that encourage you to speak on behalf of anyone other than yourself.  

  1. Keep abreast of media coverage on Conference and the denomination.  Media coverage and positioning can change almost daily. You can find up-to-date and accurate information from the denominational perspective on our Conference website and the UM News website.  

    You are further encouraged to read the Protocol, FAQ and initial press release. It is critical to be as well-versed as possible. This access and familiarity of current developments will allow you to better and more effectively engage with not only the media, but also with your congregation and others who may see you as a reliable source of information.
  2. Never say, “No comment.” Instead, use the following hold response:

    “I want to make sure we give you the most accurate and up-to-date information.  Let me reach out to someone who can help me find a way to best help you. Give me your contact information, deadline and topic that you’re calling about, I’ll have someone return your call as soon as possible.”
  3. Gather detailed information after you’ve offered the hold response. Take down specifics, such as the date/time you received the call, the reporters’ name/contact information, details on the proposed story and any other information that you believe may be useful.
  4. Be firm and polite. The goal of the Conference is to provide accurate, timely and consistent information to both the public and news media. At the same time, please take care to avoid offering personal opinions, speculating, repeating unconfirmed information, inadvertently coming across as speaking for the denomination, the Conference or the district or feeling that you have to answer questions.
  5.  Engage our Conference Communicator. This new role was added to ensure that NYAC has a dedicated resource to assist with a range of matters—including media relations. Lisa Isom, our new Communications Director, should be engaged along with your district superintendent whenever media outreach pertains to matters of consequence to the denomination, the Conference and/or your district. If you contact Lisa Isom by email, please copy Assistant to the Bishop, Bob Walker on the exchange so that the Episcopal Office is also aware.  

Thank you for your understanding as we move forward to manage media requests and better ensure that coverage is accurate, well sourced and balanced during this time of increased engagement.
This is the beginning of what will be a longer-term solution in the days and months ahead. We value and appreciate your insight. If you have questions or want additional information, please feel free to
contact our Conference communicator.

The Journey Continues, . . .

Grace & Peace,

Thomas Bickerton
Resident Bishop


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