What's in this session?

  • Phase #1: Awareness (2:44)
  • Phase #2: Anticipation (4:41)
  • Phase #3: Action (9:22)

Show notes and resources

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The Transcript

Speaker 1: In my experience, many churches struggle with event promotion. You want your congregation to take next steps and get involved in the life of your church, but how do you inspire them to actually do that? Well, in this podcast I’ll share with you a simple three-phase framework for promoting your ministry’s events and you’ll learn what it takes to truly inspire your church to action.

Well, hey there. Welcome to Pro Church Tools, the show where in ten minutes or less you’ll get a dose of tips and tactics to help your church share the message of Jesus while we navigate the biggest communication shift in 500 years. I’m your host, Alex Mills, joined as always by the boss man, Brady Shearer.

Speaker 2: Alex, we truly believe at Pro Church Tools that the best pathway to church growth and church health is to focus on next steps. People in your congregation actually taking action, getting involved, and not being passive spectators that just maybe show up to a Sunday service every other week. But of course, this goal presents a huge question: How do you actually compel people to get excited and get involved? And so what we want to introduce in this episode of Pro Church Tools is a three-phase framework that you can implement for any type of event promotion at your church. It’s simple, but it’s incredibly powerful.

Speaker 1: Well, if you’re hosting an event and nobody knows that you’re hosting an event because you haven’t promoted it well, nobody’s gonna be at that event to take the next step you want them to take, and then you can get into this vicious cycle of analyzing what you’ve done and saying, “Oh, nobody came to the event. I guess the event wasn’t good enough,” and then making adjustments to the event when, no, the event itself was fine and maybe it would have been great, but you just didn’t promote it well enough. So we need to know how to promote events well, and we have tools like Facebook and email and websites, all these things available to us to help us promote our events. And so we have to learn how, and then you have people at your events to take those next steps.

Speaker 2: Well, it’s a tricky balance, right, because you obviously have to make the event good, otherwise if you do a ton of promotion people show up and it sucks, they’re gonna feel like, “Wow, that was a big letdown and I’m not gonna believe them next time.” But then on the other side of things, if you don’t do any promotion, it doesn’t matter how great your event is if no one actually gets involved. And this is the tricky balance in the business world that we talk about between marketing and product. There’s that old saying, “You can’t put enough makeup on a pig to make the pig good-looking,” something like that. It’s like, you gotta make sure your product is good, but that also is not true in the inverse. If you build it, they will come. That’s also not true. There’s this in-between, there’s this tricky balance.

So when it comes to the promotion side of things, a lot of churches, I’ve found, feel a little bit lost. And what they do is they just end up saying, “Come to our event. Don’t miss it. It’s gonna be great. Don’t miss it.” And so there’s a better way. It’s this three-phase framework. Let’s dive into the first phase.

The first phase is the awareness phase. Here you wanna begin this phase about one to two months before the event is actually scheduled and on the calendar. And the key to this phase is to do soft promotion. This is the awareness phase. All you wanna do, all you wanna accomplish, success during this phase, is making sure that when you say the event out loud, the person in your church goes, “Oh yeah, that’s coming up, isn’t it? I’ve heard about that somewhere before.” And so one to two months, you don’t have to promote it every week, you definitely don’t wanna do it every day, but there are a number of different things that you can do. You can give it a stage announcement. Not every week, but a stage announcement maybe every three weeks or whatever. You wanna do storytelling. This is the soft promotion side of things. You wanna inspire people. A social story. A behind-the-scenes story that shows, oh, we’re getting ready for Christmas.

Speaker 1: Yeah, exactly. It’s October and you’re posting, people are building sets, you post an Instagram story.

Speaker 2: I’m at Target. I’m getting some decorations. Just these types of things that kinda just remind people as they go throughout their everyday, they’re every week. Oh yeah, the Christmas is coming up. The men’s retreat is coming up. Oh look, they’re buying a ton of bacon. It’s probably not one to two months in advance, the bacon would go bad. But that’s the first phase, awareness. Soft selling, lots of storytelling, and just sprinkle through all the different platforms. Don’t over index on announcements. Do an announcement. Mention it in the email newsletter. Do some Instagram stories. Create a Facebook video. All these little … just hit all your different location, because maybe someone doesn’t hear the stage announcement because they tuned out, but maybe they do see it on Facebook. Awareness.

Speaker 1: And this way, an event can never sneak up on anyone at your church, because you’ve told them. You’ve dropped those little hints a couple months in advance, so when it comes time to actually pay you for the men’s retreat, maybe people have set aside money because they knew about it.

Speaker 2: Exactly. Or at least when you tell them, they’re like, “Oh yeah, I meant to do that. Okay, I was planning on it anyway.” That’s phase one.

Phase two, moving from awareness to anticipation. If the first phase is one to two months before the event is scheduled, now we’re in the one to two weeks before.

Speaker 1: Gotta create some hype.

Speaker 2: Exactly. That’s exactly what this is about. This is about anticipation. The key to this part of the process, and this might be the most important part of this entire episode, is to make sure that you as a church and you as the leadership are clearly communicating the value proposition of the event. Now that might sound a little bit like weird speak that makes no sense. Here’s an example that should make it clear. Let’s imagine that your church is promoting a Christmas experience, your big Christmas service. This is a cornerstone event, it’s one of the two biggest things you do all year. What most churches do, and I know this because I’ve done 30000 individual church announcements for churches of all sizes, ethnicities, denominations, and everything in between, most churches will communicate and try to get people excited and begin anticipating the Christmas service by saying stuff like, “There’s gonna be a candle lighting and we are gonna be singing your favorite Christmas songs, and Pastor Bill is gonna be delivering a message in a manger.” Maybe that’s a bit [inaudible 00:05:52]. We are going to have so many candles that it will be blinding to you guys.

The point that I’m trying to make is that churches focus on these parts of the service that are features that seem important to them, but don’t actually communicate any urgency or anticipation to the congregation. So what’s the alternative? The alternative is to focus on the value proposition. If I’m a family in your church, the fact that you have candles in your auditorium instead of the regular lights, there’s nothing of value there for me. That’s maybe a fun little gimmick, a little bit novel, but there’s no value. Instead, you could take an angle like every single year, we get really busy around the holidays. But we know that the Christmas service at Central is a family tradition for so many of you and we’re going to be doing things that your kids are gonna talk about for years. You’re always gonna remember coming to church on Christmas December 23 or December 24, whatever day it is. It’s not about the candles. It’s not about the tree. It’s not about the decorations. It’s about the family tradition and that we all turn our eyes to Jesus.

For instance, my family on December 23 had a candlelit living room event where my mom and dad would sit down, they’d open the Bible, and we’d read the Christmas story and we got one gift. The best gift I ever got. No, not a real gift.

Speaker 1: Oh, I thought you just got to open one from under the tree.

Speaker 2: There were some families where like … you know that thing where you open up the gift on December 24? I was not one of those families.

Speaker 1: Okay, this was stage gift.

Speaker 2: I got yelled at Christmas morning. It’s 7:30. Go and eat your Mennonite brunch first. I’m like, “I just wanna open my Star Wars TIE Fighter.” No, you don’t get it. December 23. The gift would be like, an ornament. Not a gift. Faking. But I remember, I still remember, and we talk about it to this day because of the tradition that’s baked into this. I was given a gummy alligator, and to a 62 pound eight year old, it was the most amazing thing ever because it was this giant gummy alligator. I had been trying to track down this gummy alligator. I’m 27 and I still think about it on December 23 because of the tradition. That is a value proposition that will resonate with a family in your church, talking about focusing your eyes and the whole family on Jesus just like you do every single year. Don’t miss this event, not because of the candles, but because of the family tradition, the whole family turning their eyes to Christ every Christmas.

Speaker 1: And this can be hard for the people who are preparing services, for people who are curating these experiences, because often a lot of the things that hold a lot of value to us who are creating these services, whether it’s monetary value like these lights cost so much or you put in a lot of time setting up these candles, have you ever tried to light a couple hundred candles? And you’re thinking, “What’s gonna catch on fire?” And you put a lot of effort into these candles. I know because I’ve done this.

Speaker 2: You’re thinking of it.

Speaker 1: Yeah.

Speaker 2: And when you’re thinking of it, then you share it with the church because it’s on your mind. I don’t care.

Speaker 1: It has so much value to me because I put so much time and effort into it, but we kinda have to step out of that perspective and take a seat in the congregational perspective and say, okay, what are these people going to find the most value in here? And it just takes a little bit of shift of perspective, but that proposition is just going to be a lot more effective.

Speaker 2: Phase one, awareness. One to two months. Phase two, anticipation, one to two weeks. Final phase, most churches finally neglect this phase. You’ve been working on promoting this event for so long. It finally comes and you’re like, “Finally we can stop promoting this.” No. Do not stop. One to two days. This is right around the event is happening. This is the action phase. What we have found is that if you’ve done this right, there are gonna be so many people that are on the fence. But we humans are excuse brilliant connoisseurs. We will find a way in the last minute we were planning on doing something, then we’re like, “Yeah, but I’m kinda tired and I don’t wanna get the whole family.”

Speaker 1: How many times have you clicked “interested” on an event on Facebook and then not gone?

Speaker 2: There’s a reason why forms have now begun to go step by step when it comes to … instead of, like, here’s 18 fields you need to fill out. We know with human behavior if you just start with an email and you click enter and then we present you a second thing, you’ll be like, “Well, I already entered the first thing. I might as well do it now.” So with these one to two days left in this action phase, you wanna focus on a number of different parts of communication. It’s very important. You want to do testimonies and you wanna do behind the scenes as it happens. So if someone attends your Christmas service and they send you an email and they’re like, “That was amazing. My family’s never going to forget that and we’re in such a better place.” Take a screenshot. Post it on every social account. Send it out in email. Do a live behind the scenes Insta story of people walking, behind the scenes, in the green room or just offstage or about to walk onto stage and do the Christmas service and post it. Or the day before you’re setting up, maybe you only have one service. The day before you’re setting up all the decorations, show it and be like, “If you’ve been thinking about it, you’ve gotta come to this.” Urgency, scarcity, more urgency. Get people to take action because there’s a huge percentage.

I would warrant a guess, 20% of the people that are on the fence that are just looking for a reason not to come. So don’t slow down the promotion; ramp it up as you get closer to the event.

Speaker 1: So good.

Speaker 2: Final thing is that not all events deserve the same level of promotion. We did another episode of Pro Church Tools called the ultimate event promotion framework where there we offer a matrix basically that allows you to weight events based on their importance, and that should determine proportionately the amount of promotion, the volume. This framework can be applied to every event, but you shouldn’t apply it as intensely with as much volume for a Christmas event as for like a women’s brunch. That’s important to remember too. That episode of Pro Church Tools will be linked in the show notes and that’ll do it for this episode. We’ll see you next time.

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