By Brandon A. Cox: Okay, content marketing might be a new term for you. Here’s a definition from Joe Pulizzi, Founder of the Content Marketing Institute…
“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
Two Observations About the Church and Content Marketing
Let me make two observations about the relationship between the church and content marketing.
First, I believe that the church was the first great content marketing institution. How do I know? As I pointed out in my book, Rewired, the early church used papyrus for publishing, the Roman roads for traveling, and the Greek language (almost universally used for written communication) to get the good news about Jesus out to the ends of the earth.
Then, the church used the printing press to distribute Bibles. The Bible was the first book printed on one, and is the most widely published book in history for a reason.
My second observation isn’t quite so positive… we’ve fallen behind.
Where once the church was innovative in finding new means of spreading the gospel, now we’re skeptical of technology, scared to engage the world around us, and our view of “secular” culture is flawed. Instead of creating culture, we’re hiding from it.
So I believe we ought to get back to our roots and become leaders in the field of content marketing, not to combat everything secular, but rather to influence the secular with sacred truth.
Two Big Truths We Need to Believe In
Let’s acknowledge two other big truths about content marketing and the church.
One, we have the world’s best content.
We’ve been handed the very revelation of God’s mind and heart in the form of the Bible, the written Word. It’s printed and bound in leather, sold in dozens of translations and study editions, and available in digital formats.
LifeChurch.tv has done an amazing, Kingdom-minded thing with the development of YouVersion, which puts the Bible into dozens of languages, socializes it, and spreads it all over the world. They don’t have the only Bible app (which is another positive), but they’ve done probably the most aggressive work in terms of marketing it.
We can do even better getting the word out about the Word. LifeChurch.tv and a handful of online Bible publishers can’t do it alone. We need to tell everybody about the availability of eternal truth.
But it isn’t just the Bible. We’ve preached hundreds of thousands of great sermons, produced amazingly creative videos, written tens of thousands of valuable books, and authored too many devotional works to count.
We have the content with which to fill the world with encouraging, life-saving truth.
Two, our message is worth marketing.
You wanna argue about whether the church should be in the “marketing” business or not? You’ll have to argue with someone else, cause I ain’t got time f’dat!
Every church leader I know is a marketer. And those who are opposed to “using marketing in the church” are usually some of the best at marketing their anti-marketing message.
Maybe we just need better jargon. Know what marketing really is?
Marketing is getting the word out.
That’s it. It’s spreading the message. And I’m pretty sure we were commissioned to get the word out (marketing) about the truth and saving grace of Jesus (message).
So, how can the church do better with its content marketing? Here are a dozen from-the-hip ideas…
- Use social media in supernaturally natural ways (point people to Jesus in natural, relational ways).
- Remove the imaginary barrier between the sacred and the secular.
- Don’t be awkwardly religious all the time.
- Be personal. Share your life in pictures, videos, and status updates. Not everything, but some highlights.
- Build friendships and relationships.
- Sprinkle in divine truth.
- Be funny in appropriate ways. Humor is relatable and Jesus-like.
- Break your sermons into easily sharable portions – blog posts, tweets, images with quotes, etc.
- Point back sometimes to ancient things – old hymns, creeds, and quotes from leaders already in heaven.
- Demonstrate the relevance of Scripture to everyday issues and problems.
- Get artistic. Use your creative gifts to adorn God’s truth in beautiful ways.
- Tell stories of life change.
Oh, and get better at this.
Read great books about content marketing.
Use widely available tools and resources.
Our message never changes. Ever. But our methods of marketing it will change with every generation. And this generation needs Jesus!
So let’s do this!
I’m Brandon. I’m the Lead Pastor of Grace Hills Church in Northwest Arkansas, which my wife, Angie, and I planted in January of 2012. I previously served as a Pastor at Saddleback Church and still manage Pastor Rick Warren’s online, global ministry to pastors, Pastors.com. I also blog about blogging, life and church leadership, and men’s issues, and I’ve written a book – Rewired, which challenges the church to adopt social media to spread the good news about Jesus.