As the old hymn goes “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” Well, it’s not only a great old hymn that applies to our personal relationships with Christ; it also applies to media ministries.
As you begin to develop a media ministry or work to hone an existing one, keep in mind that you have to have a solid foundation to build upon. If you don’t, then you might as well take money and throw it out of the window. As Christians and ministry staff, you are responsible not only for an annual budget, but also for stewardship dollars. Talk about accountability, so the foundation you lay today will determine your success tomorrow.
First things first. Who are you? What is your brand?
Men and women follow leaders. We seek leadership from our presidents, our bosses, military commanders, our parents and ultimately, Jesus. But did you know that when you assemble your broadcast product, whether it be radio or television, you a placing your pastor on a soap box and asking the viewers or listeners to follow that person? It’s true.
I could name off a number of program titles from various national ministries, and the average viewer wouldn’t have a clue what the ministry is about or who the pastor is. But, if I quoted names like “Charles Stanley”, “Creflo Dollar” or “Robert Schuller” most audiences would know immediately whom I am speaking of. Why? Because media ministries are personality based.
When a person visits your church, why do they decide to join? While you could argue that there are many reasons, ultimately it would be because of the pastor behind the pulpit and how that person ministers. Media ministries are no different. Ultimately to accomplish your strategic goals, you have to make that all-important connection with the audience. And in order to make that connection you have put a great deal of time, energy and strategic planning into your media ministry.
Therefore, you have to manage your “brand” no differently than Coca-Cola or Pepsi. Your brand is your pastor; the one who is the face and voice of your media ministry. How do you manage it? By deciding how you are going to present them to the audience. If you and your pastor haven’t talked about this, then you need to!
On several occasions I’ve met with ministries who will say something like “Creflo Dollar does this” or “Charles Stanley does that” and my response to them is that their pastor is not that person- just like Coke isn’t Pepsi and vice versa. Strategically, what others are doing is a result of who they are and what works for them. It doesn’t mean that it will work for everyone. If it did; every pastor in America would be on television or radio doing the exact same thing. Determine whom you are and what you want to accomplish as a media ministry. That, and only that, will help you develop your own strategic initiatives.
If you are a pastor and you have a media ministry, then you need to make sure that you and your producer are on the same page. Does that person know your heart and your vision? And will that person give you an honest and straightforward opinion?
If you are a producer or director of a media ministry, what kind of relationship do you have with the pastor? Can you, and will you, tell them exactly what you think? And are you giving the pastor pure conjecture or qualified analysis? Furthermore, do you understand that you are creating the vehicle that will send the message to countless viewers or listeners? And do you understand that you have the daunting task of taking a 40-minute message and modifying it to fit the time constraints of your allotted airtime?
Now, what do you want to accomplish?
Once you have a handle on brand and who you are, you have to define the strategic goals of your ministry. What do you want to accomplish? Is it to feed believers, save souls, or something else? Prioritize your goals for the program, then develop tactics to accomplish those goals. Keep in mind that strategy will change depending on the reach of your media ministry. Are you local, regional, national or international? Is it just that easy? No!
From a marketing standpoint, I often tell clients that their media product will either help them or hurt them, but rarely will it do neither. While that might seem like a brash statement, it is in my opinion true, because I see it so often. You can’t put a media ministry on cruise control. It’s a tiger that has to be tamed and fed on a daily basis. Either you manage it, or it will manage you!
Once you understand your “brand” and have defined your strategic goals, then you are ready to develop tactics. What are tactics? They are simply the means to accomplish your goals. For instance, if your desire is to reach the unsaved, then you have to look at who you are capable of reaching. Is your pastor someone who appeals to a young, middle-aged or older demographic?
For the sake of argument, lets say your pastor appeals to a younger demographic. If that’s the case then you have to manage your brand and build your product to appeal to that demographic. The most important thing I can pass on to you is that strategy has to drive creative—creative can’t drive strategy. Creative is indeed very important to ministry but it cannot drive the program. Your strategic initiatives are the life-blood of the program. That is what develops your product into a vehicle that will reach your audience.
Please understand that I am not undermining the role of creative in a media ministry. I am saying that you have to understand your product and audience. Then and only then can you determine what to do creatively to garner a greater response from that audience in order to justify your creative. Creative, driven by sound strategy is pivotal in the production of your media ministry.
Once you’ve begun to identify, define and develop these various aspects of your program, are you ready to hit the air and take the city, state or nation by storm? Not quite. Once you’ve laid the foundation, you have to look at other key areas like media placement, direct response mechanisms (fund-raising), product development and the back-end that will support your media ministry. But those are articles in themselves.
The bottom line to defining, establishing and implementing these two elements is effectiveness. Is your program geared for success or doomed for failure? Ministry programs are unique unto themselves. What works for one ministry may not necessarily work for another. Different brands, different audience, different viewers, different supporters. You’re not looking for rating points or awards; you’re looking for impact. And the kind of impact you’re looking for happens at a grass-roots level, where you build the strongest foundation.