(This is Part 2 in a series on Marketing in Ministry. You can read Part 1 here.)
Communications theory is not a mystery, and it doesn’t need to be that complicated. Social media strategist Justin Wise offers a simple but profound template to guide any organization in the creation of its communication thrust. Referring to what he calls the Communications Pyramid, Wise advocates four essential stages of development. He notes that most non-profits invert the pyramid, not taking the essential time to set a proper foundation. If you’ve ever been in a meeting where communications ideas have been thrown about, you’ve likely seen this happen. Before the hour is up someone has been appointed as the Facebook or Twitter champion, joining the fray of the countless others looking to get noticed. Instead of jumping to action, slow down and build your pyramid.
- The Organizational Big Idea. Most non-profits have an identity or missions statement buried somewhere, but when participants are asked to repeat it, they are hard-pressed. It has no lasting value in guiding decisions or communicating vision. Taking the time to craft a well thought out organizational big idea means that you have come to the point of identifying the unique focus of your ministry. What are you the best at? How has God positioned you to uniquely impact your world? With whom must you collaborate to formalize this? This exercise narrows an organization from a shotgun to a laser beam. More than anything, it defines what you don’t/can’t/won’t do. It speaks of intentionality and efficiency.
- Communications Strategy. Defining the big idea gives guidance to your next steps, helping define what you will and will not do. Rather than sledding indiscriminately downhill, your entity is now on a defined run. This influences what and how you print, and digital communiqué – including email, websites, social media, and so on. Your strategy affects what stories (current and historic) are told and championed. It guides who is on stage, whose resources are endorsed, and what verbiage is used.
- Website Strategy. There’s no need to parrot what we all know about the importance of your website; it commands a place all its own on the pyramid. Your site tells stories, reinforces values, collects registrations and donations, helps create a data-base, and communicates critical events. In my opinion, the cardinal sin of website management is the failure to stay current. I looked at a church planting organization’s website this week and saw that the last news post was from three years ago. It’s as if the propagation of the Gospel doesn’t matter to them. As Justin Wise says, “I can read your organization’s mind just by looking at your website.” Only enact features that you can responsibly manage and update; others can read your mind as well.
- Social Media Strategy. The social media phenomenon is here to stay, and according to Paul Adams (who created Google+ and is the former head of brand design for Facebook), the guiding macro-principle that effective organizations need to understand is that the internet is increasingly being built around people, not technological wizardry. More and more, the web is relationship-oriented, trending users toward their likes and habits, toward their friends’ likes and habits, and away from dislikes and interruptions (such as pre-content commercials). By implication, building this tier on your communication pyramid involves much more than blasting-blasting-blasting Facebook and Twitter feeds to promote your next big thing. As in any human relationship, Adams declares, the effectiveness of your social media strategy will be indexed to many lightweight interactions over time. There are “heavyweight” moments, when you ask or invite, but these succeed only in the wake of the consistent aggregations that occur as relationships are built.
Does this give you perspective on your own communications strategy? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.