It’s election day in the United States. No matter who you voted for, or if you voted, I hope you feel proud about your choice.
I’m fascinated by both the world of presidential politics and church marketing because I’m fascinated with how brands influence people. In recent months we’ve seen relentless advertising and 24-hour media coverage of the election. It’s a battle for hearts and minds.
Make Me Proud
One of the most significant developments in the presidential race has been the debates and some shifts in people’s enthusiasm. Whether you’re happy or sad about it, most agree that Mitt Romney won the first debate in a pretty memorable way. A CNN poll counts 67% who felt that way.
This, according to most polling, boosted his popularity. I attribute that to what I call the “proudness factor.” Whether it’s people, causes we support, or products we buy, how proud we are of them affects our actions. This has applications for churches and non-profits, too.
Back to the presidential race. Did these newly vocal fans suddenly change their minds or party affiliation? Doubtful. I believe they simply became less timid and more proud of their candidate, which changed their public behavior.
After that first debate, many fans of President Barack Obama had a tougher time being enthusiastic about their candidate, to put it mildly. (Some ardent supporters, like Andrew Sullivan, actually unleashed some rare words of angry disappointment.)
What does this have to do with church marketing and communications?
Is your pastor prone to frequent “Joe Biden moments”? Does your worship leader have the diplomatic grace of Ann Coulter (or the real grace of Special Olympian John Franklin Stephens)? Is your treasurer grumbling about “the 47 percent?” Are staffers as friendly as secret service agents? Does your building have the warmth of a post office?
These kind of issues become engrained in a church culture, and result in people not being proud of their church. Sure, they love their church, warts and all. But they won’t tell anyone about it. No yard signs or bumper stickers.
Last week a church asked me for advice. Their numbers had flat lined for many months and they wanted to “do some marketing” to grow. I reminded them that if their members were not inviting friends, there were probably issues within the church that no marketing could overcome.
Remember that in October, 90 minutes of live debate had at least as much impact as nearly $2 billion of campaign spending.
It comes down to this: Are your people proud of their church? They want to be. Improve the “proudness factor” and people will community organize and vote with their feet every Sunday.
This means being brutally honest with yourself and staff. No matter how healthy your church seems it’s good to ask “Why would (or wouldn’t) our people be proud to tell their friends about this church?”
The hurdles can range from stained facilities, weak websites, lame music, all the way to those dysfunctional staff donkeys and uncomfortable cultural elephants in the room. People want to be aligned with a winner.
Just look at the decline in the number of people who identify themselves with the main two parties, and the increase in the number of independents: A Gallup poll last week showed Dems and GOP nearly tied at 35%-36% and independents up to 29%.
Now think about the decline in overall church attendance, especially among young people. How much of that might be related to being proud of your church—or the Church in general?
The best path to growth, whether it’s a campaign or a church, is simply to remove obstacles. No fancy marketing blitz will ever replace a heartfelt invitation from a neighbor. When people are proud of their church (or candidate) they talk about it with confidence, share on social media and take action.
Are you ready to deal with the root issues in your church? It’s tough. But if you’ll address them, and communicate openly about it, you’ll see your poll numbers rise. It really is a battle for hearts and minds.