Marketing works. I often like to think that I am immune to clever advertising, being that I work in marketing. That’s just not true — I fall for it almost daily. I sign up for a free offer, I download a coupon, I click on an article titled “ten ways your toothpaste is killing you.” Then, I get put on an email list or following an Instagram account that slowly pushes me towards buying new toothpaste. It works, but marketing often morphs into manipulation. That is the last thing we want to do in the church, so it is crucial that we learn from these fundamental principles while maintaining good character. You can think like a marketer while having the heart of a minister.
Your church needs a content strategy. This may sound like a complex concept, but churches are already content-driven organizations. Only journalistic outlets produce more content than churches. Churches produce a lot of stuff. They have sermons, small groups, discipleship plans, leadership trainings, Bible reading plans, parent-cues, and testimonial stories. You have the content, now it is time for you to put the strategy in place to be sure the right people are engaging with it.
Simply defined, a content strategy is “planning for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content” (Kristinia Halvorson). When used well, a good content strategy will ensure that you get the right message to the right person at the right time — resulting in life-change.
Your content strategy needs a goal. Thus, we suggest you write down some of your goals and then work backwards — figuring out how you can use your content to achieve that outcome. Here are some examples:
– More people in a small group.
– Visitors to quickly move through your next steps process.
– Members to take daily Bible reading seriously.
– Students to go on the mission trip.
– People to commit to giving.
– Communicating more focused actions to 3rd – 5th time visitors.
I would love to deep dive and flesh-out all of these examples out, but let’s not get too crazy. I will work backwards from one of these goals. (If you want me to help you create a strategy around any of these, please email me. I will happily do it for free.)
Our Goal: We desire for members to commit to faith development (prayer, daily reading, small group) outside of Sunday gatherings.
Our Why: We believe that healthy, growing families foster a healthy, growing church.
Our How: We are going to produce weekly reflection questions, next steps, prayer cue, and Bible reading plan to help our people put the message into motion. (It’s good to create concrete goal-oriented language in here — 30-day challenge for instance.)
Part One: Content Creation
Bottom Line: Produce the content and set up the systems.
The core of a content strategy is — content. You need to offer something of value to your audience. There are two major ways you can offer value. 1) You can meet a need. Write down some of the biggest needs you perceive in your population, then create something that meets that need. 2) You can enrich their lives. This one is similar, but it doesn’t directly speak to a need or vulnerability. You can produce something that practically makes their lives better, easier, or more fulfilling.
For this campaign, we are going to give it a practical title to unify communications and branding. We are going to invite people to join us for “Thirty Days to a Stronger Marriage.” We will deliver this content package week by week with the goal of helping foster healthy family relationships church-wide.
We want to help our audience put the message into motion, so we need to conceptualize personal growth tools that are both approachable and applicable. Your first step is to create the content —pray for your direction then create the documents.
Next, you need to set up a delivery system. Here are a few options.
Use MailChimp or Constant Contact to set up a 5-6 automated email campaign. You will write out an email for each week with the attached PDF. People can sign up using a standard signup form that you manually enter into a list, an online button that links directly to mail chimp from your website, or by emailing a generic email (strongermarriage@churchname) and you can set it up to automatically enroll them into the automation (a little extra work).
Church wide — in person and print. Just provide the papers for people who sign up. Have your office do 1-2 follow-ups during the Culmination phase. Then, do a church-wide push to join a group. You can set up short-term growth groups where couples meet throughout the week.
Any combination of automation and personalization. If you combine a personal connection with an automated content delivery system, you will certainly see traction from this campaign.
Part Two: Captivation
Bottom Line: Talk about it and get people talking about it.
This phase is all about exposure. You’ve put all this work into making the content, now it’s time to communicate what you’re doing. You can make the best eBook in history, but what if no one actually sees it? You need to think about getting the word out creatively. Your newly-constructed campaign needs to have social media promotion, stage discussion, and visual print enhancing it.
Start this push 2-3 weeks before you kick it off. Introduce the concept in small doses at first, culminating in a full-fledged promotional video and stage announcement on launch week. Encourage your leaders to talk about it. Encourage key members to get excited about it. Excitement will completely change the experience.
Part Three: Connection
Bottom Line: Get people to engage in the conversation — have them opt-in.
As people are captivated, they will start to connect. Your goal here is sign-ups and small commitments. Are people signing up? Are people spreading the word? Do you see that people are taking the handouts? These are the outcomes you’re seeking in this phase.
A great way to ensure connection sticks is to lead by example. Have leadership mention the challenge. Produce a social post a week surrounding the material. Observe people who have already signed up. Remind them that time is running out. Public promotion will lead to private productivity.
Part Four: Culmination & Completion
Bottom Line: Deliver content as they continue to complete the process. Celebrate progress.
If you are in automation mode, then you have already done this work. It’s as simple as watching your click-rates and open-rates.
This time is all about reinforcement. Talk about what God is doing. If a story of early breakthrough shows up in week two, share it with the church. Throw an event where the church provides free babysitting while couples have a date night. Give them date-night ideas online. Encourage people to talk about what they’re learning in groups and on pages. Celebrate progress. Celebrate dedication. Celebrate your congregation — always.
Encouragement will be key here. Have you ever signed up for a gym membership and then didn’t go for a whole week? It’s much easier to go when you have a friend pushing you. Be that friend! We tend to sign-up quickly and follow-through poorly. This is normal behavior, so be sure to be their cheerleader. Motivate by positive reinforcement. Be sure to send 1-2 encouraging emails to ensure people keep it up. Furthermore, a lot of people will miss a few days. Directly speak to that struggle. Be sure they know that missing one day doesn’t mean they must miss the whole month. One lapse shouldn’t lead to complete collapse.
Part Five: Commitment
Bottom Line: Use a call to action to encourage commitment to your goal.
All of this work is for a common goal — now is the time to make committing to that goal easy and enticing. We want people to commit to groups or daily Bible reading. Thus, we need to make the next step easy to take — not in a couple of months, but in a couple of days. Think up any barrier to entry — break it down.
There we are. We did it. We used a content strategy to lead our people towards growth which will lead to a deeper commitment to the mission. If you change your families, you will change your cities. Eternal impact comes from creating life-giving content — start creating today.
If you want more ideas on how to use content well, our friend Justin Nava has given us an excellent eBook to help you generate your next big idea.
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