Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Your Church Brand in Action

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Last time we talked about what a church brand is. Doesn't matter if you are aware of it or not, or even if you believe in it or not. You have a brand. You are who you demonstrate yourself to be, and what other people experience. So, you are better off being wise in how you act toward outsiders and take it seriously. (Colossians 4:5-6)

The way to take your brand seriously is to act on it regularly. In other words, develop some church-wide habits that are intentional.

Start with your voice and tone. (See Grammerly explanation)

Your voice is what you choose to say. What words and phrasing do you choose when you talk to the public about your church, its programs, its location, or what it believes? This is your choice of phrases and statements you say often, or try to avoid. And your word choice should match your style as a church. Are you formal, or informal? Do you use terminology that is regionally-specific, American, or international?

Your tone is how you choose to say what you say in different situations. For instance, your voice doesn't change as a church, but you may sprinkle in some humor for most of your youth-focused communications, or become dead serious when announcing disaster relief efforts. Your tone should have situational awareness when expressing your voice.

Settle on your approach and get everyone on-board. Then have everyone on your staff and leadership to implement it. Remember, every official communication from your church — whether email, website, printed postcards, and so forth — communicates who you are to outsiders.

See MailChimp's Voice and Tone guide for ideas.

Develop your messaging.

As a result of deciding your voice and tone approach, put it into action by crafting template messages according to different situations for staff and leadership to use. 

Determine where you want to communicate (delivery vehicle) and what you want to say (message). For instance, what you say when you send an email to the congregation will be different than what you say in a postcard mailing to people in your community. It's a good idea to list all the ways you communicate as a church, and to whom, and craft general guidelines for each situation.

Once you determine how you want to communicate in each situation, put your voice and tone to work in all your communications.

Coordinate your look.

This is where color, logo, and design work together to express what you say you are. Your voice and tone gives literary expression to your brand, while your look gives a visual expression to your brand.

If done well and consistently, you will develop a visual shorthand that people will come to recognize as your church.

It's a good idea to codify everything in a brand guide. A good brand guide will include the rationale, logo usage guidelines, colors, voice and tone philosophy and examples, and any other visual and

Train your people.

This almost goes without saying. Before any of this can go into affect you must have buy-in from leadership and they must be involved in the process. How they are involved depends on the environment of the church and personalities of the leadership. So, if they fully support the brand direction and goals, the last step — once everything is approved — is to show them how all this works.

Take the time to train everyone starting with leadership and staff, then anyone else involved in communications in your church. Give the whole staff a brand guide if it's printed, or send everyone a link to a PDF download. And train them on how to use the guidelines and resources. And last of all, help the other members of your church understand why the new branding is so important.

Be very flexible, especially with church members. But since the leadership and staff should already understand the importance, they can operate as additional advocates.

What can derail all this?

  • Being inauthentic. You don't live by what you say you are. Your look, voice, and tone do not match how visitors experience you. Be very careful how you approach branding. Don’t get too caught up in attracting people. Be honest first. Then tell your story. It will attract whomever appreciates you for who you are, if done well.

  • Lacking buy-in. Churches fail before they start because leadership and staff don’t care or understand the importance of a clear brand. There must be individuals in the church who not only understand the need, but can articulate and train others. Then it’s possible to begin the process once the need is genuinely desired by almost everyone on staff.

  • Fear of change. There can be influential people in the congregation who hold tenaciously to their own ideas no matter what. When this happens they need to be won over. The best way to do this is to address their concerns as legitimate concerns. If it becomes evident that a rebranding process is worth more than any possible drawbacks they will become excellent advocates. However, if the case is unconvincing, it may have to be abandoned or the case has to be made stronger over a longer period of time. And depending on the level of need, it may take an executive decision as a last resort. But do this cautiously, understanding that you must have a large majority be in agreement to move forward.

Do not go further until these are resolved. 

Remember, this is not about advertising for churches. It's about how you show up to the conversation with outsiders. Think about it: Do you want to give the wrong impression, no impression, or intentional impression? It's as simple as that.

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