By Jenny Fujita and Joy Miura Koerte, Fujita & Miura Public Relations

When identifying target publics for PR efforts, faith-based communities are often overlooked. They may not be top-of-mind because religion and personal beliefs are not liberally discussed at work, in public school, on TV, or in social settings. But when it’s appropriate, the faith-based public is a great segment to reach out to and communicate with.

The recent wave of publicity and box office success of the film “The Passion of the Christ,” which interprets the last 12 hours of Jesus’ life, is a solid example of the size and influence of the faith-based public. According to E! on April 11, “The Passion of the Christ” garnered more than $350 million in sales and was the top-selling movie three weeks in a row. Church groups planned trips to the theater and religious leaders were asked to comment on various TV news programs. All types of stories surrounding the film have appeared steadily in the media since its opening this February. The hype even swayed individuals who don’t consider themselves part of a faith-based sector to see the motion picture.

Faith-based communities are large, active, and influential. In many instances, they are well organized and have regular methods of communicating via websites, newsletters, direct mail, and face-to-face interactions. But focusing on these groups must be done carefully and with great respect. Like any other group, learn about them first and only reach out to them when it makes sense and if you have reason to believe that they’ll benefit from or have interest in your product or service. For example, if your restaurant is near a church, make sure your hours and staffing can accommodate parishioners before and after church services, and let the church leaders know you are happy to serve their members. If you are near a Jewish temple, you may want to offer some authentic Jewish and kosher food items. You get the idea.

When communicating with faith-based communities, stay within your boundaries as an outsider. Be sensitive to and informed about the reason that they exist, whether you agree with their principles or not, and be sure your staff follows suit. Faith-based publics have the potential to be passionate allies.

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