CAMPAIGNS: award publicity; In praise of the super preachers

Client: The College of Preachers Campaign: Preacher of the Year Award Team: Phoenix Public Relations Timescale: July to October 1996 Budget: pounds 5,000

Client: The College of Preachers

Campaign: Preacher of the Year Award

Team: Phoenix Public Relations

Timescale: July to October 1996

Budget: pounds 5,000

The Preacher of the Year Award, now in its second year, was set up by

The College of Preachers to promote a higher standard among the

estimated 70,000 ordained and lay preachers in the UK.

Sponsored by the Times, the award invites all preachers, of any

denomination, to put their talent for communication to the test.

The College provides courses wherever they are needed around the

country, however it is constantly battling against funds shortages and

the success of the awards event is seen as vital to its future.


To raise awareness of the College and interest in preaching among the

general public by attracting nationwide media coverage of the Preacher

of the Year Award.


The Times announced the award in the early spring and invited preachers

to submit a written sermon for adjudication. Entrants were shortlisted

before the main thrust for publicity for the event began in July. The 30

semi-finalists were anonymously visited throughout summer and

adjudicators watched them in action, before the five finalists were


The final, on 30 October, was held in the context of a church service at

London’s Southwark Cathedral, which provided a public stage for the

final while maintaining necessary dignity. Leigh Mendelsohn, a partner

at Phoenix Public Relations says: ‘We had to handle the event very

carefully. For instance there were Methodists who feel that the

competition is bad. So we had to deal with everything in a fairly

serious manner.’

Phoenix initially targeted local media working up to a national press

campaign around the time of the finals. The regional publicity campaign

primarily revolved around putting the award candidates forward as a

focus of their local communities. Candidates were also fielded for

topical radio discussions - one local station, for example, invited a

preacher to contribute to its discussion about communicating and the use

of English.


Throughout the four months of the campaign, regional and local media

focused on their shortlisted entrants. As well as coverage by the Church

press, the finals attracted TV news coverage from ITN, Channel 4 News

and BBC TV News.

The Independent and the Guardian sent photographers and reporters to the

finals, as did the Scotsman and the Western Mail. The event achieved a

total of 25 minutes of TV coverage on 30 October and 56 minutes of news

coverage the following day plus extensive column inches. A Dutch

television company is now making a programme about the College and

international press coverage extended to USA Today and the Herald



By concentrating on community involvement and promoting the award

candidates as local personalities, Phoenix succeeded in generating

massive regional coverage. The College of Preachers was delighted by the

coverage and the fact that the story was picked up by so many regional

newspapers successfully highlighted the event as ‘national’ as opposed

to London-based.

British press interest in religion is said to be at an all-time high.

And with recent coverage of some Church stories verging on the

distasteful, even if the tabloids failed to take the bait, the award

provided an opportunity for the Church to redress the balance.

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