Every time I meet with a leader who is looking for my help convincing other people to participate in their event, program, activity, or ministry, I reiterate a few basic principles of marketing communication that I call The Three R’s. They are especially helpful for self-declared “non-marketers.”
If you’re not a marketing-type, but have something to communicate succinctly, your message needs to have resonance, relevance, and recourse.
Resonance: clarity, depth, fullness; evoking or suggesting images, memories, and emotions.
Resonance gets misused a lot in our post-modern, individualistic culture. We use the phrase “this really resonates with me” to indicate that a message has meaning to us in particular. But when something resonates, it simply means it produces deep, full sound that carries. It may evoke images, memories, or emotions, but it’s overriding characteristic is clarity: we hear it loud and clear. It cuts through the other noise.
When something has Resonance, it means that it’s clear to everyone. Think of a siren, or a church bell, or ship’s horn. Everyone’s clear on what those sounds mean, and they hear them over other noises.
So how do we get our messages to Resonate? Start with your elevator pitch.
Relevance: connectedness to the matter at hand; appropriate to the current situation.
I’ll admit it: the word relevant is overused. I hear “that’s not relevant” all too often, mainly as an excuse to not engage with an idea. So think of Relevance like this: whatever you’re communicating about has a target audience, and you need to make it meaningful to them.
Meaningful starts with the message, not the listener. A 50 something male empty nester in your congregation might have a neighbor or coworker who’s a young mom. So an announcement Announcing your ministries with “if this is you, or it sounds like someone you know” helps a wider audience hear your message as relevant.
A great example of this is how we recruit people to be Stephen Ministers. Stephen Ministers are volunteers who undergo extensive training to be able to walk alongside people who are in a difficult time in life, offering support and help. It’s beautifully simple, but it’s also all too easy for people to think “that’s not me; I’m not gifted that way.” So we start with a message like this:
“Anyone out there on social media? Facebook, Instagram, Twitter? Ever notice how everyone’s life looks amazing on social media?
“The truth is that for most of us, real life isn’t like that. In fact, for some of us, it’s nothing like that. Some of us are really hurting. Could be divorce, unemployment… just a rough stretch of time when you need someone to walk with you through this hard time. That’s what Stephen Ministers do. They’re folks who have the empathy to simply be there for those among us who need help getting through a hard stretch.
“Now you mind need a Stephen Minister, but we know there are some out there who are hearing this message and thinking, maybe I could be a Stephen Minister…”
Catching peoples’ attention by starting with the nearly-universal phenomenon of being on social media helps us make the message more relevant to everyone.
The word Recourse gets a bad rap due to the legal connotations is elicits, but the primary definition of Recourse is “a source of help in a difficult situation.” If there’s a better way to describe the way churches should think of CTA (call to action) in their communication, I’ve never heard it.
If you’ve clearly expressed your big idea, made it relevant to your target audience, then the best thing you can do is offer them some help in the form of a clear, simple change in their course of action (recourse… get it?). Give them the next steps and make them as simple as possible. Be the person hearing the message, and think to yourself, what am I going to do now, based on what they just told me?
I edit copy all the time that leaves out 1 or more of these things. Each one is universally helpful, so ingrain them in your thinking and communicating, and you’ll find that writing promo copy isn’t that hard after all.