For awhile I have been doing some research in to marketing and branding and in particular how they can help a church effectively reach their community. In the next couple of blogs I am going to attempt to summarise my thoughts and studies on this topic and hopefully give you something to think about as you see how your unchurch community looks at you.
How is your church perceived by your congregation and by the community who don’t attend. These are two distinct groups of people with different needs and different ways of engaging them. Firstly we will look at how we engage our community.
Your Church Brand or distinctive.
Your church brand is how you are marketed or perceived by all people. Good or strong brands are instantly recognised and should create an emotional connection. When you see the Golden arches logo you don’t think McDonalds but you are automatically thinking about their products and how much you enjoy them. When you see the Nike swoosh you are thinking about how it helps you run, or how comfortable their clothes are. Even the logo CE, you don’t know what it means but you recognise it as some sort of quality control.
So what is your Church brand?
How does your community perceive your church? Do they recognise it they way you do. If you closed tomorrow would anyone notice?
Successful organisations work out firstly what message they want to communicate to their community. They identify that market and then look for what are the hot buttons for that group of people. Churches need to decide if their core market is their existing congregation or is it people who don’t go to church.
When you are developing your church’s distictives (brand) you start with what your audience wants not what you think your audience wants. This would include not only programs but what time the activity or even church service starts. Which day of the week you hold it? The church is really a service organisation. The church is the only community organisation that exists for people who aren’t its members. So when you run an activity make sure the people you are running the activity for actually want it.
You need to make sure you have distinctives that actually engage people. Quick check amongst you current church activities. Who is engaged churched or unchurched?
Well who is my audience?
Our radio station has a specific listener in mind when we create our programming. She is Mary Smith 34 year old lady with two kids, one in grade 4 another in grade 1. She has a significant male partner in her life, doesn’t go to church but is not anti church. She drives a family type car, kids play sport and the daughter does dancing. All our decisions on music selection, announcer breaks, copy writing for ads all come from what engages Mary and her life. Our radio station distinctives come from Mary’s life and what would engage her as a listener and a person.
Churches sometimes make the mistake of not being able to define who their Mary Smith is. Consequently you don’t know who you are targeting in your programs or even sermons. The same for departments such as youth or Sunday school. They all should have a core person in their mind when running their ministry.
Once you know what Mary looks like then you can develop your Church’s distinctives. Also be prepared that you Church’s vision statement may change. My experience is that most church vision statements are for the congregation not the lost. Most business vision statements are for the potential consumer not the existing member. That seems to be an interesting difference. I think a lot of churches get their vision statements mixed up with mission statements. Throw into the mix that many churches even use their vision statement as their branding/positioning statement. In reality you actually should have three different statements.
Next blog will look at how do you communicate your brand/distinctives to your community. I am also keen to hear your thoughts on this topic too.