An effective communications strategy for your church will include two processes: (1) marketing and (2) communication. The two are not the same, but each is vital, and it is essential for you to understand how to use each. A simple ABC approach will help you keep this in mind.
Branding = marketing.
Call to action = communication.
Marketing gives your audience the WHY. Communication gives them the WHAT and HOW.
Churches tend not to think about marketing, staying satisfied instead with communication. Too often they promote events without building a compelling case for WHY that event is important to attend.
Marketing is the strategy marketers use to establish their brand in the mind of consumers. The point is to increase awareness of the brand, not to push the sale. Once consumers associate a particular brand with a particular need, they will more likely go to that brand when they experience that need. This is the point of posting ad after ad for the same brand across social media platforms.
An example from our experience will show how the difference between marketing and communication played out at our church.
One Sunday we made an announcement during morning worship about an upcoming mission trip to the Dominican Republic. It went something like this:
Next summer we are planning a mission trip to the Dominican Republic and we’d love you and your family to join us. Before you go home this morning, stop by the DR booth to get more information and to sign up for a special meeting that will take place in a few weeks.
Mission trips to the Dominican are not new at our church. And since we take a group there yearly, we assumed the church was fully aware of WHY we go on these trips. Wrong assumption.
The fact is that every year fewer and fewer people had signed up to experience what God is doing on that mission field. We assumed that people just weren’t interested. And after the above announcement, we thought our assumption was confirmed. Only three people signed up for the meeting.
So the next week we changed the announcement to see if we could do better.
We asked the missions pastor to make the announcement and to explain the WHY of the trip. Here’s what we asked him to say that Sunday:
Last summer I was standing in a little church, worshipping with about 150 people. During the baptism service, the man standing beside me turned and spoke to me.
“I just want to thank you for being here,” he said. “Last year the message you shared changed my life, and I was baptized that day. I went home and shared that message with my family, and now I get to baptize all of them. This is all because you took the time to come all the way here and spend your time with us.”
What an experience! And I know if you will go with me to the Dominican this year, you’ll experience God at work too.
After the service, 33 signed up. It was our largest mission trip ever, and most of those who went had never gone on a mission trip before. We realized we had given them a reason to go. The WHY was compelling and real.
Now we have a group of people ready to help us multiply our impact in the Dominican as they engage others with our work there by sharing their experiences. If we can get their stories on video, we can share them with the whole church to communicate our mission to the Dominican. We expect interest in that mission and sign-ups for the next mission trip there to grow.
We’re seeing that people today resist being sold something. They want to be compelled by something that will resonate with their own personal convictions. Then they will decide to buy-in.
Learning this has changed the way we do social media. We went from simply announcing an event to telling a story about it. We invite people to engage in a conversation and not just click on a link to fill out a form. As a result we have almost doubled our social media engagement, and the audience seems more interested in joining the conversation.
By learning to follow the ABC’s of marketing and communication, we’re doing a better job of engaging our audiences with the ministry we’re conducting together.