ENGAGE Reflections: 3 Expert Messaging Strategies That Work For Churches

ENGAGE Conference 2019 left us with all kinds of great strategies and next steps for how to use technology to help our churches thrive.

We are taking advantage of all the incredible content from ENGAGE Conference and doing some in depth looks at the different topics covered by the speakers.

We gained an even deeper understanding on how to use social media in this power packed post.

Now, we are going to look at what communication experts have to say about crafting an impactful and engaging message. In this day and age, our messaging is not limited to what people hear and read when they are physically at our church. We live in a digital age where every sermon, graphic, Facebook post and email is communicating a bigger message to our community and we need to be intentional about how we craft each and every one.

Now, before you get overwhelmed, these communication experts have laid out strategies that are proven and applicable. You don’t have to turn your whole communication strategy upside down. But I know that implementing these strategies, even if just one at a time, will yield huge increases in your community’s engagement.

As StoryBrand certified guide Wes Gay explains, “it’s not the how, it’s the what that matters. Technology is a highly effective tool to communicate a message; but if the message isn’t right, the tool is useless”.

I am going to unpack 3 key strategies to effective messaging that experts like Wes Gay, Holly Tate, Mark MacDonald, and Michael Tuszynski taught us at ENGAGE Conference 2019...

    1. Focus on a specific audience
    2. Articulate a clear and concise message
    3. Create easy, direct next steps

Let’s dive in!

Focus on a Specific Audience

All of the speakers who taught us strategies about communicating our message focused first and foremost on with whom you’re communicating.  Both Wes Gay, StoryBrand, and Holly Hall Tate, Vanderbloemen Search Group, talk about creating a “persona”. According to Tate, having what she calls, a “ministry persona,” focuses and directs everything your church puts out- website, sermons, social, email, etc. Your church’s persona is semi-fictional, developed from both data and educated guesses. Here are some great tips on developing your persona/audience…

    1. Details matter: even things you may think aren’t important shape the people you are serving.
    2. Be thorough: start with what you know and build from there.
    3. Everything you do in your marketing strategy should tie back to the personas you create.
    4. Big numbers don’t always yield big results; personas narrow the audience you’re reaching, but will increase your effectiveness.

Wes Gay says this about the importance of a very targeted audience/persona, “When you try to reach everybody, you end up reaching nobody.”  Mark MacDonald. author of "Be Known For Something," agrees!  He shared his 5 steps to cutting through the noise and being known for something and what do you suppose step #1 is?  Know your audience.

Now, I’m guessing this isn’t a new concept for you. However, what I do think is incredibly helpful to pull from this is the tools we now have to focus on our audience. We have things like Facebook insights and Google Analytics to tell us who’s looking at our posts/website. We have databases that can pull all the demographic and geographic information for anyone who has attended our church. This information can get plotted for you. You can analyze and focus in on your “who” as in depth as you’d like.

This is an incredible opportunity in front of us! An ultra-specific audience leads to the most intentional messaging we can produce!

Articulate a Clear and Concise Message

As we’ve mentioned, we live in a digital world, and our opportunity to reach people is bigger and easier than ever before. However, Wes Gay challenges leaders to focus less on the “how”, meaning what channel or communication method will we use, and focus more on the “what”. He states boldly that, “when we focus on the message first, everything else falls into place”.

If you’re struggling to understand exactly what your message is, circle back to your audience.  That’s why it’s important to effectively accomplish that step first.

    •  What pain points does your audience have?
    •  What problem are they trying to solve?
    •  What are they passionate about?
    •  What do they do for fun?

Remember, you are not bound to one message forever and ever amen. Your message for your Christmas services will be vastly different than the messaging for Vacation Bible School. Even if your audience doesn’t change, the way different events or topics impacts them likely will.

Mark MacDonald talks about this process as creating a “brand promise”. He encourages church leaders to be the solution to a goal held by your community and talk about it, post about it, tweet about it, email about it… you get the picture.

Michael Tuszynski with Church Media Squad relates the same principles to messaging done through graphics. He describes how poorly a graphics performs if it has too many words, or doesn’t have modern design elements, or is just irrelevant to the audience.

Messaging comes down to what’s pertinent to your audience and communicating that clearly and concisely. “If you confuse, you lose.”

Create Easy, Direct Next Steps

The importance of clear, easy next steps can not be overlooked. Michael Tuszynski showed us examples of bad graphics. I found it fascinating that what rated them as “bad” was too much information. The best graphics were ones that had one “call to action”.

    •  Fam Night, October 17
    •  Lunch & Learn, Immediately Following Service
    •  VBS, Register Now

When you read these phrases, your mind has one thing to focus on. Show up on October 17, get lunch right after church, register for VBS. It is effective and takes the “what now” guesswork out of it for people.

Mark MacDonald also talked about communicating these next steps in unison. Make sure your church is consistent from all the different access points. A social media graphic should have the same next step for Youth Group as the information table at your church for Youth Group.

Conclusion

As you move forward with the way your church communicates and to create effective plans for messaging your people, remember to…

    1. Focus on a specific audience - getting this right first will lead to the most intentional messaging we can produce!
    2. Articulate a clear and concise message - don’t make your people solve a riddle by being clever or cute… “If you confuse, you lose”.
    3. Create easy, direct next steps - show your people the path of least resistance and tell them what you want them to do.

Happy Connecting,