Ten years ago a church (or any organization) could tell the world what they were all about. An organization used to be able "push" the message. That is, people within the organization controlled the information that was made public. An organization controlled their image because they controlled the message that went out.
Our hyper-connected world has changed all that. Facebook, texting, cell phone cameras, Twitter, blogs, and other forms of social media means those who come in contact with your church can relay their experiences to friends in real time. As one branding expert said, your brand isn't what you decide it is, it's what happens when you Google it, or overhear two people talking about their experience with your brand (or church in this case).
"Pushing" has been replaced with people "pulling" the information. If anyone wants to know what your church is like, they won't find out from you. They will find out from their social network or Google.
So what can you do to influence how people see your church?Understand that since your church members have a larger voice in your church image than you do as a pastor, they can be advocates who bring your message to life and share it with others. Brand consultants Lippincott (who work with companies including Walmart, McDonalds and Nissan) believes the two most important ways to do this are:
- Tell Authentic Stories. What is the central message of your church? At my church it’s how ordinary people can share the love and grace of Jesus in everyday situations. Stories of people in our congregation are shared weekly. Real stories about struggle, loss, questions, answers, and victories. We identify with the people and the stories, and it helps reinforce the central values of our church.
- Foster Inspiring Experiences. What makes your church unique? Since our church seeks to live like Jesus, we are moving away from programs and doing more acts of service. Besides sharing stories of what individuals are doing, the church also organizes house casa building in Mexico, weekly tutoring, monthly service projects with an orphanage, and an annual day where we take a Sunday morning and tackle 150+ projects in the community. These are memorable and inspiring experiences we associate with our church. Through these interactions we live out the message.
The result is that members of the congregation not only understands what the church stands for, they participate in, and tell the story in tangible ways. If you can craft a simple, authentic story and invite your congregation to live it with you, they will tell the story in real and transparent ways.
This article was adapted from “Building winning brands in a radically transparent world” from Lippincott: http://www.lippincott.com/pdfs/StoryExp_brochure.pdf