At The Provisum Group, we provide virtual staffing solutions for churches and faith-based charities. We primarily provide services in the area of accounting, marketing, communication, information services, and customer relationship management. One of the toughest challenges we face every day is content acquisition and development for marketing to and communication with congregations. Essentially, we need our clients to give us some sort of idea as to things like:
- What is the sermon series?
- What do you want in the bulletin?
- What events are being planned?
- What ministry is happening?
- How are lives being changed?
Someone has to make those decisions at the client level. And, the decision has to be made soon enough for content to be developed and distributed. You can’t finish the bulletin articles at 10:00 p.m. Saturday evening and expect the bulletin to be typeset, proofed, edited, and printed by 8:00 a.m. in time for Sunday service.
I am going to give you six tips for content development.
Functional is better than cool! I cannot tell you how much time and money I have seen wasted by church staff and leadership over things like colors, fonts, images and graphics. Don’t get me wrong. Creativity is important. There is a reason creativity is so expensive. As a left-brained, task-oriented person, I truly appreciate the creative gift. But a B+ creative piece executed well and delivered on time in most cases will produce a much greater return on investment than an A+ creative piece executed poorly and delivered late.
In a church growth class I conduct, I illustrate this point by showing the audience of pastors and church workers three different posters advertising food truck festivals (you can watch it at ). I ask the group to identify which poster they like best and tell us why. Soon people are advocating (sometimes vigorously) for one poster over the other. Sometimes the debate could go on for an hour if I let it. Then I ask a second question. I tell the group that one of the posters (I don’t say which one) will cost $65. One will cost $250. And one will cost $1,200. “Which one do you want now?” I ask. Always the same response. Silence. Then someone whispers, “The $65 poster.” Never fails.
Copy Writing In copy writing, less is more. One of the first things I tell my copy writers is “Nobody reads anymore.” Now we all know that is not entirely true, but what is true is that video is replacing copy. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth ten thousand words. We have one client for whom we have to shrink the font and decrease the margins on paper for almost every letter their pastor writes. If you have to shrink the font and shrink the margins to get all the words on the paper, you have too many words. A good rule of thumb is that if you cannot say it in writing in less than 150 words, record a video.
Diversity Matters Sunday morning at 11:00 a.m. has been called the most segregated hour in the United States. The truth is that when people look at your communications, your church, your website on social media, they are looking to see people who look like them. Young, old, single, children, black, white, brown, yellow, men and women, and so on: Make sure you represent as much diversity as you possibly can in all your communications.
Frequency It is far better to tell someone one thing five times than five things one time. Unfortunately, to make this happen, someone is going to be disappointed. The knitting circle and the book club may have to sacrifice one of their communication spots for the parent’s day out and the community meal.
Pay for Experience Whenever possible, hire or engage skilled professionals to create your content and produce it. In my new book Connect, I talk about how connection is the tip of the spear of disciple-making and disciple-making is the reason we are here. However, so much of church and ministry communications in the church today are being produced and managed by people who know very little about the science. A worship leader who owns an Apple computer becomes the graphic designer. A youth pastor who made a blog becomes the webmaster. Having created a blog does not make a person a webmaster any more than owning a wrench makes someone a plumber. However, the same church that will hire and engage a licensed plumber to fix the leaking water heater will engage just about anyone willing to do the job for little or no pay when it comes to creating and producing communication. Don’t relegate one of the most important mission-critical processes the church has to inexperienced amateurs and novices.
Understand the Process Creativity is a process, and so is production, and process takes time. People need time to execute vision. Content is a byproduct of the marriage between creativity and production. In the process of creating content there is a back-off schedule. To create a back-off schedule, you start with the date of the event or service you want to tell people about. Then you back up (on the calendar) the day(s) you want people informed about the event or service in question (called “the drop date”). If a piece is going to be mailed, you have to back up about ten days for the U.S. mail. Then you have to back off again the time for the printer to print, the graphic artist to create, the writer to write, the creative team to come up with the concept, and so on. Between each of these efforts you have to allow for time to make edits. All in all, a simple letter can take four to six weeks to properly develop and execute.
Honor the production schedule and expect people to do what they say they will do and be on time. Not only will your results improve but so will your production capacity.
DO THIS NOW!
Sit down with someone who creates content for your ministry and review some communication content. Review how the content encourages people to come, connect, and grow. Ask the person who produced the content: “How does this content convey our brand story?”