WATERTOWN, Mass. (A.W.)—The St. Stephens Armenian Church in Watertown hosted the first New England Prelacy Seminar on Public Relations on Nov. 16. The objective of the event, which was organized by the Armenian Prelacy, was to help churches and communities utilize various media resources to enhance the visibility of their programs and activities.
Representatives from five New England churches participated in the four-hour seminar, including St. Stephens Church (Watertown), St. Gregory Church (North Andover), Sts. Vartanantz Church (Providence), St. Gregory Church (Indian Orchard), and Soorp Asdvadzadzin Church (Whitinsville). Also present were Rev. Archpriests Antranig Baljian and Aram Stepanian, and Rev. Stephan Baljian.
After the opening prayer by Rev. Archpriest Baljian, longtime Armenian Weekly contributor Tom Vartabedian, who helped organize the event, began the program. He highlighted the need and importance of successful public relations and distributed a sheet of guidelines he had prepared on how to boost PR in churches. Vartabedian, who spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer with the Haverhill Gazette, discussed the ways churches can establish communication with media outlets, editors, and journalists. He also spoke about the types of stories churches could submit for publication, and how to best go about telling those stories. Vartabedian stressed that each church has a well of stories, because many churchgoers have stories worth telling. He gave examples from a list of article he had written for the Armenian media, and also distributed a list of story ideas for parishes. Participants periodically raised their hands throughout the seminar to ask questions or add comments, sometimes giving way for discussions.
Following an introduction by Vartabedian, Armenian Weekly Assistant Editor Nanore Barsoumian talked about the types of stories that fare well with readers of the Weekly. She also spoke about the importance of a good photograph, and the different ways churches could publicize their events in the Armenian and local media. Barsoumian highlighted the importance of establishing an online presence through social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, and how to best use the tools available online to create and expand virtual communities. She then gave examples of how other churches have adapted to these new tools, and encouraged those present to adopt similar methods.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Kurkjian spoke next. He began by stressing the significance of Boston’s Armenian Heritage Park, and the tremendous efforts of those who brought the project to fruition, and suggested that churches organize trips to the park. Kurkjian, who retired from the Boston Globe in 2007 following a 38-year career, talked about the need for increased action by the Armenian communities regarding the White House’s refusal to lend the Armenian Orphan Rug to a Smithsonian exhibit. He also talked about the importance of including schoolchildren in events, and publicizing their involvement in local media.
After a break for lunch, participants split into three groups to discuss how to best implement some of the ideas shared, and to talk about challenges and hesitations. In his closing remarks, Vartabedian noted that other seminars on public relations are being planned for the Mid-Atlantic and Mid-West regions, as well.