Are We Who We Say We Are?

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The whole idea of branding can be confusing for a lot of smart people. And it’s easy to see why with all of the different definitions floating around—is it what other people say you are? Is it your logo? Or the website & other promotional channels?

The simplest way to wrap our minds around this is to think of it as a promise we’re making of what to expect, and how well we consistently deliver on that promise.

This all comes down to the EXPERIENCE we’re offering. Are we who we say we are?

When we think of it as a promise, we’re in control—we manage the expectations and experience of that promise. If we allow others to define who we are, we’re constantly in a reaction mode.

This goes beyond what we say in bulletins, brochures, & billboards to what we actually do.

Everything else is just a channel for delivering on that promise.

The Price of Free


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It can be tempting to chase after “free” opportunities

  • A volunteer is willing to start a new ministry idea
  • An organization is offering to sponsor an initiative on your behalf
  • Someone is willing to include your ad on their website, magazine or newsletter
  • A partner wants to send a summer intern/assistant/extra-hands-and-feet-to-do-work-for-you

Sounds great, right? I mean, who doesn’t like free?

Before jumping on board, remember everything has a price. Sometimes it’s actual, physical dollars & cents. Other times it’s time. Or relationships. Or how much it impacts your brand or reputation.

So be sure to ask first:

  • Is the timing right for this opportunity?
  • What will it really cost?
  • Will it ultimately help accomplish what we’re supposed to do?

“So often people are working hard at the wrong thing. Working on the right thing is probably more important than working hard.”

The Dangers of Prioritizing Tools Over Training

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Recently, I read an article about how United Airlines plan to improve its connection to passengers through technology… primarily mobile.

United has been my go-to airline for the past 13 years. The vast majority of my work has been here in the states, so to achieve Gold status—living in the middle of the country, no less—is no easy feat. I’ve had A LOT of experience with gate agents, customer service reps, & flight attendants. Some were good, most weren’t.

Technology isn’t going to help in the way they’re hoping. People are. 

People who act like they care. That my problem matters to them & they’re willing to do whatever is within their power to help.

Technology (at best) is just an extension of the customer experience. Not the foundation of it.

Instead of investing in tech, invest in service training. Or better yet, in hiring & recruiting strategies that attract people who actually do care in the first place.

Whether in the marketplace or in ministry, the very people we’re hoping to serve get shortchanged when we elevate tools over training. Every. Time.

The Keys to Communicating Change

“I just don’t get it,” he sighed. “I feel like I’ve been repeating the same thing for months until I’m blue in the face. Why aren’t people getting on board with the new vision?”

Many of the leaders I work with are in the midst of leading through change. Some big, some small, but all with their own unique challenges. 
I’ve found there are three common denominators why people tend to resist change and what we can do about it. 

I wrote a post for Catalyst that talks more about this that published today & I’d love to hear your thoughts.  

Three Ingredients for Leading Change

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It’s a fact. Change happens. If it’s not here already, it’s probably right around the corner.

Most of the leaders we partner with are either smack in the middle of a significant change or are getting ready to tackle one. Whether it’s a complete overhaul of the brand, restructuring the communications team, spiffing up the website or just making a few tweaks, there are a few right ways—and many, many, wrong ways—to lead through change.

Regardless of how big or small whatever is about to take place, I’ve found there’s three key ingredients to help things go as smoothly as possible. Continue reading “Three Ingredients for Leading Change”

RFP Questions to Ask

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1) How would you help us solve this problem?

2) Who else have you helped?

3) What will it take to get us there? (time, budget, resources)

That’s it.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand where a Request for Proposal comes from and the purpose it can serve. But oftentimes an organization believes it needs to know HOW to solve the problem when creating the RFP and subsequently compares costs against executing that solution.

But it doesn’t matter which car we drive if we’re headed in the wrong direction. Don’t feel the pressure to figure out the how—That’s a big part of what you’re paying for.

Instead, tell them what needs to be fixed and look for a team that truly seeks to understand your needs, your culture and has the experience to back them up. Chances are high the proposed solution may not be what you expect but you’ll be delighted with the results.

The Price of Being a Sheep

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I love this piece by Hugh MacLeod, as it seems so relative—especially in the world of ministries.

It’s easy to follow the crowd. To imitate what everyone else is doing. To want a website/logo/outreach program/fill-in-the-blank just like Big Name Ministry has.
(Side note: If I see one more website—or get one more request—for a website that looks just like Hillsong’s, I’m going to poke my eyes out with pencils)

But I believe the price of being a sheep is much steeper than mere boredom.
We’re robbing the world of what it is we’re uniquely wired to offer.

Don’t get me wrong. I love getting inspired by others who’ve gone before me and look for ways to build upon those ideas to make them my own. But as my friend Mark Batterson has so eloquently put it, “When inspiration stops short & becomes imitation, it’s suicide.”

Discovering your purpose and braving new trails is hard. It takes work, and yes, it can be very lonely. But I think the reward is worth it.

Six Lies About Logos

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Okay, “lies” might be a bit extreme, but it’s true they’re often misunderstood or misperceptions.

When done right, brand identities can be an instant way to communicate the vision, values, and what someone can expect at your church or ministry. They can break down barriers, pave the way to connect new people, and focus your culture. When done wrong, it can reflect an inaccurate image, create divisions, or even be misleading.

So without further ado, let’s cover six of  the most common misperceptions ministries have about brand identities.

Lie #1 : Identities Don’t Matter Much

Brands, logos, and marketing are basically all just fluff anyway, right? Wrong. We live in a visual culture and how we communicate matters. People form impressions about who we are and what we do based on how we communicate. Having an identity that accurately reflects the heart, vision, and culture of your church can go a long way in reaching people and overcoming misperceptions.

But before you start sketching up ideas, be clear about what you want to communicate, and who you’re communicating to.

Your identity is a channel for connecting people to your vision and needs to be viewed with a strategic lens.

It’s less about which color or font you like best, but what these things say to the people you’re trying to reach.

Lie #2 : It’s Critical to be Literal

I mean, how will anyone know this is a church if we don’t include a cross, dove, and a picture of the building? And of course we can’t forget adding a globe to reflect our heart for missions… Stop it. Just stop it. Your church is more than your building.

The best marks are the ones that allow room for you to fill it with meaning and point people back to the vision.

Embrace simplicity and create conversations, remembering the identity will always be delivered in context. If the logo is on your business card, chances are you’re handing it to someone. The sign on your building? People are on the campus. Your website? There are lots of opportunities to tell the rest of the story. The Nike swoosh is one of the most recognized identities on the planet and it’s not a picture of a pair of shoes.

Lie #3 : Copying is Okay

If we just copy what another church created, it’s not a big deal, right? What they’re doing seems to be working, so it’ll probably work for us, too, right?

Don’t get me wrong—it’s okay to be inspired by others. But when inspiration stops short and becomes imitation, you’re robbing your church of the unique identity God intended for your ministry. Invest the time to make the ideas that inspired you your own.

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Lie #4 : The More the Merrier

Some churches may think an identity isn’t important at all, and then there are others infected with logo-itis. It almost feels like Oprah showed up one day and stared handing them out. “YOU get a logo, and YOU get a logo…”

Unfortunately, when every ministry has its own identity, it splinters the collective identity of the church.

Worse yet, we’re setting these ministries up to compete with each other for the congregation’s attention. When everyone has their own look, feel, and voice within the same church, it runs the risk of brand schizophrenia.

There’s enough already trying to compete for people’s attention—the last thing we want to do is compete with ourselves.

A simple rule of thumb that’s worked for many churches is to draw a clean line in the sand: If a ministry has its own weekend worship service, it’s okay to have its own logo because they’re serving a distinct audience with distinct needs. (For example, Children & Students = Yes. Ministries such as Men’s, Women’s, and Redheaded Knitters Named Marge = No.)

Just remember to include your church’s primary logo on any mailings or communication tools these ministries use so everyone is clear your student ministry is still part of the church and not an island unto themselves.

Lie #5 : Rollouts Can Be Random

It’s painful to think about, but there are ministries large and small that have invested a ton of time, energy, and resources into creating a new identity but then completely dropped the ball when it came to introducing their bouncing new baby brand to the world.

One pastor thought if he just started casually mentioning the new name during his weekend messages, people would somehow subconsciously get used to it and be more open to the change. Another very large church thought it’d be okay to just start using the new logo on envelopes containing year-end giving statements before the new website (or anything else) was ready because, “It was just sitting there not being being used.” The congregation had no idea a change was even on the horizon in both cases.

When something as visible as your identity changes, there’s a powerful opportunity to cast vision and celebrate stories.

Don’t let it slip by. Take time to think about when the best time might be to roll out your new identity, how it might align with other opportunities, and above all, tell people WHY it matters.

Lie #6 : A New Brand Will Fix It

This happens a lot—Attendance is flat or has started to decline, the church wants to do a better job of reaching younger (or different) people than they’re currently reaching, the people in the pews aren’t as friendly as they should be, or perceptions need to be shifted to emphasize a focus on serving.

The solution? Maybe creating a new identity that feels more hip, diverse, friendly, outward-focused, or fill-in-the-blank will magically fix these problems and change who they are on the inside as well. Ah, if it were only that simple.

It’s true that a new brand identity can go a long way in recharging the batteries of a ministry, but ultimately changes need to happen on the inside as well for it to be effective. (And authentic)

 

Does this make sense? What misperceptions have you run in to?

Shift: Uncovering New Opportunities for Growth :: WFX 2017

This is my first year speaking at WFX and I couldn’t be more excited to be here. THANK YOU to everyone who participated in the session. In an effort to save as many trees as possible (my planet-protecting daughter thanks you)….

**Here you can find the notes version of today’s session**

If you have additional questions, or if I can serve your ministry in some capacity, please feel free to email me: Dnicole@AspireOne.com