Creating Buzz

Posted by Jonathan Malm on February 01, 2013.

Author: Jonathan Malm

Eric Murrell, from Long Hollow Baptist Church, identified a unique problem they wanted to overcome for this year’s Easter services. So many of the churches in the area are good at communicating, and they’ve found it increasingly difficult to cut through the noise and be heard. How do you get a church-saturated culture to engage with Easter at all? Most of the community had more than enough options for attending church. They wanted to reach the person who had never considered attending an Easter service.

They harnessed the power of mystery. To compliment their dramatic production, “The Fortunate Death of Phillip Randoll”, they decided to focus their campaigns and communications around the thought, “Who is Phillip Randoll?” They wanted folks in their community to engage with that question and explore for themselves.

And they answered that question. They created Phillip Randoll. They created a sort of alternate reality game where they invited their community to research who he was.

They built blogs and social media profiles for Phillip Randoll and allowed their community to meet him. He began engaging with the community. Each week they revealed a little more about their character. Where did he live? What was he all about? They even held weekly contests on Phillip’s blog that the community could engage with.

The whole campaign was built around a viral concept. So they kept their congregation and even some of their staff in the dark. They wanted people asking, “Who is Phillip Randoll?” And they wanted their folks to believe this was a real person.

Everyone came up with their own theories on who this man might be. Many thought they’d meet this coffee roasting missionary from Belarus at their weekend services.

It wasn’t until Phillip revealed his terminal illness on his blog that they released the name of the Easter presentation: The Fortunate Death of Phillip Randoll. And even that they only released on their micro-site that advertised the series. They wanted to leave those who engaged with this viral marketing campaign feeling like they lost a real friend when they experienced the event.

The Result

They saw five times more engagement with their online promotional materials than they had in previous years. The big payoff came for Eric when he was standing in line at his local Kroger. Two people in front of him were talking about the campaign, saying, “Who is this Phillip Randoll guy?” Looks like they got the community talking – which is exactly what they wanted.

How will you get your community talking about Easter at your church this year?

About the Author

Jonathan Malm | F T w
Jonathan is a creative entrepreneur and writer. He is the author of "Created for More," a 30-day devotional to help you develop a more creative mind. You’ll find him in San Antonio, Texas, roasting his own coffee beans and enjoying life with his Argentine wife, Carolina. You can follow him on Twitter @jonathanmalm.

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