Archives For church marketing

In my last post, I wrote about  WHY your church should be putting out a press release about the great things your church is doing out in the community.

Press releases are something most churches have no experience with. . . Partly because it’s a craft that’s engimatic and not very easy to understand.   And partly because of a conceptual allergy to practices that are embraced by the marketplace.  “The church has no business doing business,” some might say.

Since most churches don’t have people on staff that have really done much official PR before, the big question that arises usually is:

So just how/where do you send out a press release?

Well, I personally recommend that you try at least once with one of the Tier-1 press release syndication services.  I’ve used PR Newswire numerous times in the past, each time with very good results.

(1) Here’s an insider’s tip though:  If you’re a non-profit organization (501-3C, or listed in Guidestar), you qualify for non-profit discounts for PR Newswire press release distribution.  Yup, churches qualify for this discount too.

eReleases newswire service acts sort of like a reseller of PR Newswire and they have a product called CAUSEWIRE that offers the non-profit discount.

For example, I just picked-up a pre-paid credit for a press release for $179 (for a standard 500 word press release.  It costs $100 for each additional 100 word block of words in the release).  This goes out over the national wire service via PR Newswire as well as two industry specific lists.  In past jobs, I’ve had to pay extra for these industry lists (and that alone cost more than $179).

The only catch is that you have to schedule the release 3 days in advance of when you want it sent out.  If you need immediate release scheduling, you have to pay the regular rack rates, but even then, the standard pricing is cheaper than if you went to PR Newswire directly.

(2) Another option is Christian Newswire, which prices several sub-lists separately a la carte style from $65 (for 400 words, then 50% more for each group of 100 words over 400 words) and up each.  It’s much more affordable, but know that this is not an apples-to-apples comparison to using PR Newswire.

(3) I’ve also been considering using a service called PR Web.  They were originally a free press release web distribution service, that grew up, and then got bought out by a big company called Vocus.  Now they partner with BusinessWire, which is a competitor of PR Newswire.  Just as eReleases sends your press release over PR Newswire, PR Web sends your press release over Business Wire.  Does that make sense?

Anyway, PR Web offers various levels of service.  But the lesser priced ones aren’t really worth much since they are simply auto-syndicating/posting your release on a bunch of partner sites that take their feeds and push them live.  This might yield decent traffic results in the short term, but as Google continues to move toward weeding out all that duplicate content out there, content farms and similar strategies are going to loose their visibility in the search engine rankings.  PR Web  does have discount pricing if you commit to volume — one package I know of offers 2 releases a month for under $140 each.  That’s pretty affordable, and I’ve asked PR Web to let me test out the service under these packages to personally see what type of results they bring.  Stay tuned on if they respond.

 

I’ll add some details about what else you need to consider for a basic pr campaign in an upcoming post, but for the time being, these are the 3 biggie newswire service options that non-profits and ministries should consider.

Does your church work with any outside community groups on a service or outreach project?  That’s where I’d start with crafting the story to tell the world.

QUESTION: What is your resistance to sending out a press release about an upcoming event or program your church is planning?  Can you articulate it in a comment below?

There is one marketing tactics that I believe most pastors think should be off-limits (or rather don’t ever think about) for getting the word out about the great stuff their ministry is doing.

What could that be?

It’s the basic press release.

But a press release will accomplish several things at once.  In addition, what you think might be newsworthy only on the local level might actually be interesting to national media outlets in telling the story of what’s on the pulse of the nation.  One press release we sent out recently got the attention of 175+ local news stations across the country.

Consider just a couple of the following benefits, and let me know what you think:

1) Press releases gets your news out on the web.  Everyone talks about search engine optimization and marketing, and press releases in a very efficient way to get your ministry and corresponding links to pages on your website sprinkled across the web in front of new audiences.  This benefit is for more than just the immediate timeframe, as the links will help drive incremental traffic over time as people find the older releases and click through to your site, even years after you have sent the press release out.

2) If you want your local and regional community to take notice and talk about your ministry, a press release alerts local papers and hyper-local news outlets like the Patch, and radio stations.  Without a press release, it would be almost impossible for them to proactively find your ministry efforts so that they can share with their audiences.

3) If you write your press release in a very targeted manner, you will be able to insert yourself into the conversation people are already having around the water cooler about what they find in various media outlets.  If you are able to be strategic in relating your news or activities to the current zeitgeist, you’ll find yourself become immediately relevant to new audiences in a fresh and interesting way.

By the way, did you notice something that’s common to all three points above?  How about the fact that one of the major benefits of sending out a press release as a part of your church marketing activities is that it gets your ministry in front of new audiences.

If you start with this objective in mind, you might find that a strategically planned press release distribution and follow-up plan might do your ministry some good in getting new people to cross that threshold.

Have you considered sending out a press release regarding your church?  If not, what questions do you have about press releases and your ministry?  Leave them in the comment section below and I’ll try to answer them in the next post on PR.

QR codes are those 2D square black and white bar codes that are popping up in different places.  First they were used in manufacturing and UPS started using them for tracking of packages before they were embraced by the retail & marketing community.

Now you’ll find them on posters, brochures, and stickers. . . These days, they are popping up in printed materials of various church communications.  You probably have seen one — since over 50% of the population supposedly has seen or knows what a QR code is at this point.

The big question is are we at the tipping point yet for QR code adoption? Or is this just a passing fad?

Are the ones using QR codes right now trying to force geeky hipness into daily routines while there is still some notable friction in using them?

Well, according to a couple of recent studies, it isn’t so clear.  Here’s two specific data points that might make you think again about QR codes:

Less than 1/3 of people have actually scanned in a QR code.  28%.  Yup, that’s it.  That’s not a huge percentage of people.


And if you look at the actual usage patterns of people who do scan QR codes, the data is not in favor of this hip tech trend amongst communicators to use it.  After all the native cell phone camera applications don’t recognize QR codes yet.  You have to proactively download a QR code reader, launch it and then scan the code.  This can take a couple of minutes and in all that time, you have no idea what you’ll find once the QR code is decoded by your app.  Is it a promo code?  A website?  A call to action?  Just another big fat advertisement?

The other practical downside is that you have to remember — while QR codes are small, they are usually placed in what is typically considered valuable real estate on the actual marketing collateral piece.  Is it worth utilizing such precious space for something that most people who see it won’t actually use?

That said, it really depends on the audience whether or not it is useful.  In a way, the church community is one place where adoption could be successful if you are intentional about both promotion of QR codes as well as what is delivered to the audience once it is scanned.   Because the church assembles on a regular basis, and there’s recurring publications (like the bulletin!) that are published, QR codes do lend itself to this type of environment where once you expose and train people to use it once, the chances of long-term adoption are high.

Paul Steinbrueck over at OurChurch.com suggestions 10 different ways for ministries to integrate QR codes into their communications practices.  One of my favorites from the list is #3 – where you use QR codes to link to media offerings that delve deeper into the subject of the sermon, or offer sermon notes or recordings for on-demand playback.  The other one worth considering is integrating them into event invitations so that they are easily passed along and the landing page has details, maps, directions for the event you are promoting.

QUESTION: Have you EVER scanned a QR code?  When was the last time you actually spotted one?

Well, the other posts in this series touched upon how your ministry should view the social web as an extension of your social community and also seeing that social media is not just a passing fad at this point.

Today, I’ll share three factors of the social web that makes it compelling to use for church communications, especially for outreach into the communities around you.

At the foundation of today’s discussion is basically whether you want to remain nameless without any familiarity or trust. Do you want to be some anonymous entity stuck in a corner of your community or do you want to be a dynamic community participant that befriends people so you can invite them into relationships — with you and / or your ministry?

Here we go:

1) Better visibility – Managing your online presence across the social web gives you a position of infinitely better visibility to those that are in your community.  These days, the Googlopoly has invaded our life, not just our computers.  People don’t let their fingers to the walking anymore, they  travel the world of mouth.   In fact, with any serious effort, you’ll personally gain a lot more “friends” that can now know you exist than ever before.

2) Increased familiarity – This benefit does not require exteme lifestreaming, but it can be found from intentional utilization of the social media networks out there. If you are wiling to take on some simple proactive strategies, the social web allows you to converse with a much wider range of people about a much diverse range of topics than you probably would in your normal offline routine around town.  As people begin to regularly have a view into your daily activities (regular as well as those seat of the pants last minute activities), thoughts /reactions to various happenings around town, and your overall posture regarding both –  things that excite you and things that really really really matter to you, your local online social network becomes increasingly familiar with you, your personality / humor as well as your general willingness to engage.

3) Trust – This can only be achieved over time with authentic exchanges pointing the way to a God-honoring relationship built on trust. If you are consistent, outward facing, and responsive to people’s questions, needs, and just plain ol’ calls for social engagement, it is a start to quickly establishing trust with other individuals in your social networks. This last factor category cannot be overstated enough in terms of effects.

Visibility, Familiarity, and Trust.
These are the ingredients of any evangelistic outreach efforts whether you are online or offline.

Do you see how utilizing the social web successfully is not that different?  You really should leave a comment below.

It is amazing how divisive the topic of using social media in the church setting can be these days.

It’s being treated like a completely wild animal on the loose by some.  Some pastors’ take is to ban all social media and prohibit church staff and lay leaders from using Facebook and other social media — people in this camp position it as Satan’s work.

But what happens when social media becomes more than a fad?  But a new mode of communication like the telephone, or fax, or email, or . . .is it proper to ban it altogether vs. find some other creative approaches to address the concerns at hand?

I’m guessing the fundamental position on social media in the church is largely determined by how one perceives how and where the social web fits into the picture today and in the future.

Here’s one take that makes the bare bones basic appeal for the church to use social media.   On one hand, I’m surprised that such arguments have to be articulated out loud.  On the other hand, I guess the web 2.0 world has evolved so fast relative to other emergent technological innovations in communication that it can’t be addressed enough.

Check out this short video segment of a presentation on social media any why the church should embrace it. . . Continue Reading…

Christmas and Easter are the two big weekends each year where congregations make an all out push to invite people to come visit the worship community.

Some churches have used the occasion of Christmas to make a big splash and catch the attention of seekers and non-believers. One tactic is to take a look at what’s happening in secular culture and integrate it into the media mix for church communications and worship.

Here’s one church that has appropriated the 3-D technology which the masses have been increasingly seeing on the big screen and small screen.

Check out how Church By The Glades in Florida is using 3D in their pass along marketing collateral — to whet people’s appetites for the Christmas service this year. . . Continue Reading…

Halloween is over.

Thanksgiving — the largest, most visible, forgotten holiday is right around the corner.

That means, the commercialized CHRISTmas is basically here.

We’ve heard of reports that the Christmas retail season has already begun as a general secular movement as early as August now.  We’re devoting almost 1/2 hour entire calendar year around this civil holiday at the end of the year.

It is hard to find any other parallels like a date of December 25th having such an impact as far away as July or August 25th.  Not even birthdays in such a ME-centric culture are thought of this way.

Today, I received an email promoting a Free Amazon MP3 Album Download of The Veggie Tales Christmas Album for Kids:

In one sense, this is spot-on theologically: Giving away a free gift in order to celebrate another absolutely and completely free gift.

But one another sense, it is kind of a twisted manifestation when the religious circles are buying into what is being done with the timing and celebration of the civil religion around Christmas.

Is there a difference between marketing of *a* church and marketing *using* the church?

I think there is a difference, but I’m interested in what your thoughts may be on this question of the commercialization of Christmas.

My hope is that you refrain from sweeping rants as you leave a comment below. Your thoughts?

Driving up to our house, our kids yelled out “OOOOOHLALA!”. . .

. . .that’s because they spotted the box left at the door by our friendly neighborhood UPS guy and it had that distinctive packing tape with repeating “RueLaLa.com RueLaLa.com RueLaLa.com. . .” covering the seams. 

Opening up a RueLaLa.com package is always fun.  [That’s because the Ruelala is an invitation only website that gives members access to private sales and huge discounts on fabulous stuff.  YOUR invitation is right here.  Just click through and sign-up]

Alongside the merchandise that we purchased at a steal — always — is a large pink-maroon-some-color-that-has-a-funky-name colored envelope.  And one can’t help but notice three things about it when you go ahead and look inside.

Thing things you can’t help but notice struck me as 3 lessons the Church could learn from the RueLaLa.com experience.

Take a quick look at this video below as I share the three lessons every ministry can’t be reminded of enough! Continue Reading…

Today’s guest post is from Kathy Leonard of Church Initiative. The ministry’s original purpose was to equip churches with resources to help people recover from the pain of separation and divorce, also to help couples remain together or reconcile whenever possible. Kathy shares a unique tactic one church has used to help get people in the door to its ministry programs.


A blip in the church bulletin. . .
An abbreviated pulpit announcement. . .
A spot on the church calendar. . .

How well is your church getting the word out about its programs?

And are people in your community even aware of the help available for them?

Lazybrook Baptist Church in Houston has gotten the attention of nearly every person driving by their church: “Do you relate to Jon and Kate?” reads their marquee. I can imagine the drivers doing a double take, then thinking “Yeah, I can relate to that.”


Although reality TV isn’t reality, it deals with real issues that people are facing. It’s one reason people tune in. That’s why it can be a great starting point for promotional efforts.

For example, Jon and Kate’s reality TV breakup hits close to home for people facing their own broken marriages. And Lazybrook’s new DivorceCare support group program aims to reach the separated and divorced in their community.

Using hot topics from reality TV as a church promo tool can relay a variety of messages:

  • “God has something to say about the things you’re thinking about.”
  • “What you hear on TV isn’t the final word about [relationships, parenting, sex, etc.].”
  • “Church is a place where people can find answers to their questions and solutions to their problems.”
  • Pop culture is a vehicle your church can use to go straight to the heart of people’s problems. And you can be creative in expanding your ideas beyond marquees and reality shows!

    Let’s draw people into our churches by:

    * Connecting the spiritual with what they are already thinking about
    * Making them aware that God has a something to say about “Hot Topics”
    * Using messages that grab the attention of large numbers of people

    What do you think about hooking into reality TV and other tabloid headlines in order to get people’s attention for the church?

godvertiser-quote

The essence of the Gospel & Great Commission is not to be a church marketer, but rather a call to become a Godvertiser!  The end goal is not church, it is God!

The above line was my recent response to two different people.

One said they are not into church marketing because they don’t believe in advertising, gimmicks, and using marketplace tactics to draw attention to their church.

Another talked about how their aim was to increase their church marketing activities so that if they were successfull, *everyone* in their town would know exactly where their church was located, who was the lead pastor and what types of programs they offered to the community.

I personally believe churches need to look at and increase competency in church marketing tactics.  This includes knowing how and when to use them effectively.   I also believe that the intention and mission of a church will determine how you view and use “church marketing” to further ministry goals, not just attract people like you would to a grand opening or a super-duper clearance sale.

In a way, Godvertising is taking church marketing and using it to produce a specific idea virus – one about supernatural healing and shines a light on the ultimate healer.