“What if nobody cares?”
This is the question that keeps every communicator up at night. It’s especially troubling if you’re at a church where dozens of ministries are competing for the same captive audience every week. Your initially civil bulletin, website, and Facebook page have the potential to turn into a cage fight for attention as each ministry battles for mission supremacy and maximum relevance. From the ground, it seems as if the only way to be heard is to yell louder than the other guy.
The problem is, all of this shouting and hype has made our audience deaf.
Where Did It All Break Down?
It all started when your church got its act together. The good news is that this battle royale of information is a sign that you’re doing something right.
If you’re anything like my church, your communication strategy was in tatters only a few years ago. Events caught people by surprise, information traveled slowly, and the only way to be informed was to be in the right place at the right time (or maybe on the right mailing list).
Thankfully, the church world has experienced a communication renaissance as ministry leaders have become more intentional about engaging their communities. Seth Godin now accompanies Lewis and Spurgeon on pastor’s shelves, and many ministries are beginning to flesh out their staffs with word slingers, design talent, and good-hearted geeks. The Church is learning how to get the word out!
Now that your communication platform has moved beyond the pulpit (hopefully), your ministry leaders have taken notice. That’s a good thing! The only problem is that every ministry assumes their message is the most important.
Hype vs Substance
In the ministry world, last minute information is typically a fact of life. Many times, the details of events don’t come together until the last minute, but we need to get the word out and get the date on the calendar long before the whole picture has been painted. Those variables normally result in promotional pieces containing a whole lot of hype but very few details. After all, we need to get people excited, right?
Excitement seems like the best promotional tool. Truth be told, it is a great one… but it can’t be faked, and it’s only good in small doses.
Artificial hype will probably work for a little while. For our church, all it used to take was some public enthusiasm from our staff and a lot of noise to make an event a success. Lather, rinse, repeat.
It’s when we turned that into our primary formula that we ran into trouble. When every ministry area is relying on hype to generate results, your audience is bombarded with “loud” and becomes immune to all of the excitement. The hype runs out quickly, and all that is left is a lot of noise with few details to cling onto.
So what’s the antidote? Start with substance and work outward from there.
Does it Really Matter?
To have substance, your information has to have a purpose, and especially one that is intrinsically perceived by your audience.
Does the announcement really matter to your audience? Right now? In this service? Is the topic too far away to care about? Is this the right group of people to communicate this to?
These are the kinds of questions that you need to ask to avoid getting lost in the shuffle.
Universal Appeal to a Small Target
Not as many people care about your announcement as you think, but chances are that it matters very much to the right set of people. The trick is to figure out who your audience is instead of firing a blunderbuss of information at a wide target.
Take intentional steps to whittle down the group of people you’re communicating with. Where do they spend their time? How do they like to consume information? What keeps them up at night? Clarifying questions like these will help to craft your pitch in a way that your target audience won’t be able to miss. It’ll also make your marketing dollars and communication costs go a lot further in the long run.
Its Only Loud When the Rest is Quiet
So you’ve clarified your message and identified your target… is it time to grab the megaphone?
Maybe. A wonderful byproduct of being more intentional about how you communicate is that all of those concise, targeted messages will free up some opportunities to be loud again. It’s easy for two or three items to stand out on a Sunday when your bulletin is brief and the content is curated. Your website is most effective when visitors are first presented with only what they need to know this week. Facebook is more social when your fans have a clear understanding of what everyone is talking about.
Better still, your content is louder than ever… just without all of the yelling.