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”

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.

Last Chance to Get In

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I’m a huge fan of learning from others. Especially when they’re people who walk the talk & have a great track record.

If you somehow missed the new online conference everyone’s talking about, there’s still a tiny bit of time to sign up. Registration closes tonight at midnight CDT.

The roster of folks sharing what they’ve learned in the trenches is pretty amazing. Here’s just a few:

  • Jon Ferguson — Lead Teaching Pastor, Community Christian Church
  • Darrel Girardier — Creative Director, Brentwood Baptist Church
  • Casey Graham — CEO & Founder, The Rocket Company
  • Jay Kranda — Online Campus Pastor, Saddleback Church
  • Scott McClellan — Communications Pastor, Irving Bible Church (Former editor of COLLIDE Magazine & director of Echo Conference)
  • Carlos Whittaker — Author & Church Communications Specialist
  • Tim Schraeder — Social media ninja, led campaigns for Hillsong United
  • Blaine Hogan — Creative Director, Willow Creek Community Church
  • Haley Veturis — Social Media Artisan, Saddleback Church
  • Emily Cummins — Associate Director of Communications & Branding, Central Christian Chuch
  • Mark Clement — Founder & CEO, Big Picture Media Group
  • Jason Inman — Content Developer, LifeChurch.tv
  • (I’m talking about the Keys to Communicating Change)

** A couple of things to note **

1) All of the talks are TED-style… 10 mins or less of the best stuff

2) Speakers will be chatting live & answering questions w/participants DURING their talks

3) If your schedule on Wednesday is looking a little hairy, the talks will be available again after the event for participants so you can watch them later

4) A private Facebook group has been set up for participants. Folks are already connecting & learning from each other

5) They’re including a bonus Facebook Ads Training (Which apparently I could use, as I’ve been rejected 3x so far–Thankfully I’m not talking about that)

I’m really excited to see how this event turns out. If you’re thinking about jumping on board, I’d recommend it.

Ps: Did I mention registration ends tonight at midnight?

How We Started Working with Churches, Chicago’s Best Hot Dog, & Ministry Wisdom

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What do these three things have in common? They’re all questions I was asked as part of a backstories with speakers series, hosted by the new online conference Foundations. If you missed it, be sure to check it out here

Speaking of Foundations, I may or may not have recorded this complete talk no less than 9 times. (Say this with me slowly… Nine. Times.)

We won’t get into how many partial recordings, editing hours, or times it was fully submitted as “done” before it was “re-done” were involved, lest my sanity be questioned. (Somewhere along the way, I may have crossed the line from just wanting to do a good job to, um… something else entirely.)

Needless to say, I’m finally feeling good about it & can’t wait to hear what you guys think.

If you haven’t registered yet, there’s still time. Best part is you don’t even need to leave your desk—Just save July 22nd. Also, rumor has it additional speakers have been added. These are folks I respect immensely & are too many to mention. (Check out the speaker section on the website & prepare to have your mind blown)

 

I4J Interview with Phil Cooke and Justin Blaney

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Does media matter? How can churches reach people without a big marketing budget? Isn’t “marketing” kind of a dirty word in a ministry context anyway?

Phil Cooke and I were interviewed by Justin Blaney at Innovate for Jesus this morning and these were just a few of the topics we covered. Lots of great stuff shared for ministry leaders big and small (And if you look closely, about three quarters of the way through, you might see my Great Dane slipping by in the background… Kind of a Where’s Waldo sorta thing)

Here’s a few highlights that were tweeted:

“We have the greatest story ever told. But if our audience doesn’t speak “Christianese” we need to adapt to their context”

“When every ministry has its own logo and brand identity, you’re setting them up to compete with each other”

“The people that really break through are the ones that focus. We were made to focus”

“If we don’t define what is important, by default, nothing is”

“The average TV is on for eight hours a day. The average preacher preaches for an hour a week. Who’s winning the battle?”

“The most creative ministries are often the ones that didn’t have money to throw at the problem”

What are some of communication principles you’ve found to work?

Foundations Conference

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I am really excited to take part in a new conference that’s happening July 22nd. It’s entirely online (so no need to travel) and there are some pretty amazing friends joining me…

  • Tim Schraeder (social media ninja, helped raise a boatload of cash for Hillsong United)
  • Scott McClellan (communications pastor @ Irving Bible Church, prior grand poohbah of COLLIDE Magazine)
  • Jon Ferguson (lead teaching pastor at Community Christian Church & all-around scary smart guy)
  • Carlos Whittaker (brilliant musician, amazing at generating viral word-of-mouth, including this adorable video with over 7 million views)
  • Brady Shearer (founder of Pro Church Tools & host of a great podcast I was privileged to be part of)
  • Blaine Hogan (creative director @ Willow Creek & founder of a great coaching community Make Better)
  • Vince Marotte (church communications specialist & prior fantastic backstage broadcast host of Cultivate << he actually arrived on a bicycle)
  • Dave Shrein (wicked smart, author of The Communicators List & prior discussion leader of Cultivate)

Best part is until MIDNIGHT TONIGHT pricing has been rolled back to early bird rates of $89

Just use the promo code: Party (case sensitive)

It’s honestly one of the best ways to invest $89 and a few hours of your time. I can vouch for these guys. They’re legit. You’ll learn a ton. Totally worth it.

Hope to see you there!