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The War of Promotion

The War of Promotion

Last year, I saw the movie Battleship. I had been hearing about it for months through tons of advertisements and decided it looked like it was worth the price of a movie ticket. I was wrong. The movie was too long, the storyline was all over the place, and the acting was horrible.

This big-budget film that cost over $300 million to produce and advertise, quickly became a box-office flop – bringing in a disappointing $25.4 million in the first weekend. Awareness about the movie was not the issue. The movie was the issue. An expensive marketing plan couldn’t save this bad movie.

Marketing doesn’t make a bad product better. It just makes a bad product die faster.

Marketing doesn’t make a bad product better. It just makes a bad product die faster.

Through my years in the church, I’ve seen a couple flops. I’ve seen events where they were expecting 1,000 people, and saw only 100 come through the doors. I’ve seen new initiatives sink and ministries that could never get off the ground.

Typically, after something flops, I hear things like, “Clearly we had a marketing issue”, or “Of course no one came, the Pastor didn’t talk about it from stage and it wasn’t big enough in the bulletin.”

It’s really easy to pin the blame of a ministry flop on marketing and communications. The problem with that is I’ve rarely found it to be true. I’ve led the marketing of events where we did very little and saw huge results. Other times, I’ve marketed the crap out of an event (that had major barriers to it), and it fell short of expectations.

As a Communications Director at my church, I lead the charge in communicating to our audience about how they can get connected through our services, programs, and events. It’s my responsibility to help our church communicate through multiple channels, such as: web, print, social media, email, and stage announcements. You could say I’m in marketing.

What I’ve learned is that, as communication leaders, there is a crucial part of the job that many of us have overlooked. Yes, we need to promote. But honestly, that’s a small part of the job.

The crucial role that many communication leaders overlook is that they see themselves solely as a marketer, not a partner with the ministry.

The crucial role that many communication leaders overlook is that they see themselves solely as a marketer, not a partner with the ministry. Marketers promote things after the planning and strategy have been completed. What we need to be is partners in the process that help identify and remove barriers that keep people from taking their next step.

Within every program, event, or new initiative, there are barriers that need to be overcome. There are barriers like: high cost of registration, taking a week off to attend, no childcare, complex instructions, confusing message, and long event length. The list goes on and on. As communication leaders, it’s our role to help identify those things and come up with solutions to help overcome them.

I recently experienced a great example of how removing barriers can help people take their next step. On Mother’s Day, we built the whole service around challenging our church to sponsor a child through Compassion International. Typically, what happens with this is that a speaker challenges people on their way out of the service to stop by the Compassion booth and pick out a child to sponsor. Our team identified that as a barrier. We realized that by the time people are walking out of the service on Mother’s Day, they are in a hurry to pick up their kids, head out to lunch, and carry on with their day. So instead of making people wait in line at a booth after the service, we put hundreds of the child sponsorship packets across the stage and built time during the service to have people respond. The response was incredible. We sponsored 533 kids across the world through Compassion International.

Here’s my challenge to all communication leaders:
Stop looking at your role solely as a promoter. Look at yourself as a partner with your church and ministry leaders. Stop jumping in on the last 10% of an event or program by just doing the marketing. Walk along with the ministry leaders to help identify and remove barriers. Your audience will thank you.

About The Author

Phil Bowdle

Phil Bowdle is the Creative Arts Director at West Ridge Church in Atlanta, GA. You can connect with Phil on Twitter and follow along with his blog at PhilBowdle.com for practical resources on church communications.

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