We’re continuing with some powerful game-changing information for your ministry—the basics of branding. If you read the last article, you now understand how vitally important effective branding is. Hopefully, you’ve even taken some practical action—steps toward implementing the information. This second article takes the information farther with some practical steps for church branding.
In my last post, we started by defining “branding” and we embarked on the journey of helping your ministry define its brand. We covered the first step already. Steps 2 and 3 are described in the remainder of this article.
To reiterate, the three steps to branding your ministry are:
- Define who you are (a.k.a. your brand, described by 3-5 defining statements)
- Identify your contact-points
- Create pieces to use for each contact-point
In the first article, I asked you to begin brainstorming over this question: what are the various contact-points you have with people in your community? A contact-point is a venue where you intersect with people in your community (either physically or virtually). What did you come up with? You probably listed some of the following contact-points (this list is not exhaustive):
For personal contact-points, you will want to specifically equip your people to personally speak your message—your defining statements should be emphasized from the pulpit regularly. Your people will also need pieces to share the message indirectly (tracts, door hangers, brochures, etc.):
- In stores
- In homes
- In workplaces
- At social events (parties, community gatherings, concerts, etc.)
- At restaurants
- At public places: parks, malls, etc.
- Direct mail
- The Yellow Pages
- Door hanger
- Public advertising signage (subway displays, billboards, etc.)
- Your facility, signage, grounds, etc.
- Social media
- E-mail outreach/newsletters
You should make sure that you are utilizing as many contact-points as possible, since you may be able to reach some people with one venue that you won’t be able to reach with another. It is important that you be consistent, emphasizing your defining statements within each contact-point so that as the community continues to see those statements repeated, your brand begins to take shape in their minds. For example, you may have come up with three actual defining statements (your message). One strategy you can use to educate your community on who you are is to send out direct mail pieces to the community over the course of 3 weeks. In this example, our strategy will be to do a direct mail piece that will go out once a week to the surrounding 2 zip codes of the church. You’ll want to sit down and decide which defining statement would be important to highlight with each post card. Then decide what other type of content information you want to include on the front and back (e.g., logo, tagline, gospel message, etc.).
For a direct mail piece, we always advise our clients to use smaller, non-standard post-card sizes and to highlight one, single message on the front of the card. You only have a second or two to catch a person’s eye as they scan through their stack of mail. A non-standard-shaped post card, with a clear, simple message is the most effective way to stand out among a sea of junk mail. The back of the card can contain more information, but it’s important to put only the vital information on front of the card, making it uncluttered and easy to scan quickly. Once you’ve finished coming up with the content, hire a professional graphic designer to lay it out for you in a way that enhances and aids the communication of the message. Help your designer understand that it’s better to have a clear, simple design that helps a person “get” the message, than something that is just “trendy” or “uber creative.”
Decide which pieces you will need to reach out to people with a single message through each contact-point. In principle, this process is similar to setting up a lemonade stand as a child. You were a budding entrepreneur, trying to make a go at your first business and hoping to earn some extra spending money (i.e. this was your message). To reach the most amount of people, you positioned your lemonade wagon along a busy sidewalk at the front of your neighborhood. You hoped this would help you intersect with the most amount of people (i.e. your contact-point). Your impassioned pleas, large homemade sign, and the big red wagon were just the ways you communicated (i.e. the messengers) to get people to notice what you were selling. Today, we still follow the same process. You have your message, and the internet can create a viable contact-point and your website can act as the messenger to get that message in front of people.
Step 3: Create the pieces to use for each contact-point
Below are 12 ministry communication tools (messengers) that we typically create when a ministry rebrands. I have listed them here in chronological order.
- Logo design, which often includes other collateral materials such as your business card and letterhead designs
- Web site design, which often includes search optimization, social media, e-mail newsletters, etc.
- Church signage
- Brochure design
- Video/DVDs for use on the web, for visitors, etc.
- Worship Guide/Church Bulletin
- Guest cards
- Powerpoint templates
- Direct mail pieces
- Door hangers
- Gospel tracts
- Outreach signage for bus/subway stations, etc.
Decide at the beginning how much you can afford to spend
It is possible to get a professionally-designed brand on a lower budget. On the other hand, in my experience, I have found that you will always get what you pay for, hands down. If you think you are getting a deal, you might be signing yourself up for a lot of wasted time, money, and delays. For example, the individual in your church that wants to program your website may not be capable or talented in designing a branded, aesthetically-pleasing site. What I have always done in working with ministries is to start off by asking them how much they want to initially spend on branding (most ministries are already thinking of an amount they are comfortable with by that point). As a designer, the answer to that question allows me to decide if I am able to provide services to them (as well as to gauge the amount of work I am able to recommend to them right off the bat). For ministries, I often recommend doing the work in stages, thereby cutting down the amount of cash outlay at the beginning. Ministries should not expect to get all the professional-level design work for cheap. Professionally-trained, talented people are laborers worthy of their hire (1 Tim. 5:18).
Advice for working with a volunteer
“But I have this guy in my church that said he would do my [insert your specific project here] for free. What do I do?” While some ministries are blessed with skilled and trained designers who make their living by branding companies, there are several pitfalls that you may run into. In order to make the wisest decision consider these questions:
- Is this person skilled in all aspects of the project (eg. designing and programming)?
- Can this individual achieve the same level of professionalism I would expect if I hired a professional firm? Would the end product truly reflect well on our ministry?
- If I am not pleased with the work, can I be honest and forthright in telling this person? Will the individual be offended, especially if he is doing this for free/cheap?
- Can this person deliver my project within the timeframe I need? Note: Most often, I’ve seen volunteer-designed sites take six months to a year longer (and some are never finished) and look very haphazard.
- If this person leaves my ministry (on good or bad terms), would I need to start over again from scratch? Is he the only person who knows how it works?
- If the project did not turn out well, could I end the project with this individual and still maintain a good, ministry relationship with him?
When you are ready to begin, start by redesigning your logo
Because your logo (often called a “brand identity”) will set the foundational graphic style for the rest of your visual identity, it’s important to have it designed first. Your logo is the cornerstone of your brand identity. Since your logo will be showcased on each outreach piece you distribute for at least the next 15 years, it’s important that your logo is more than just a creative concept; it must be a powerful communicator. Be prepared to invest considerable monetary resources into the creation of a unique logo.
Build a branded website
Your website can be your most important communication tool if it’s designed well and is easy to use. Make sure it passes these four tests:
- Clarity - Clearly communicates who you are, your purpose, and defining statements in text and graphical style.
- Good Design - The design and feature set aids or enhances the communication instead of distracts from it.
- Ease of Use - The site is simple to navigate and allows visitors to easily find information.
- Substance - Gives the visitor enough content/information about your ministry to get the big picture as well as a reason to return or visit. You must keep your web site up to date.
10 Ideas for Branding on a Budget
- Buy a domain name for your ministry ($10yr.) and link it to a free WordPress blog.
- Advertise your site using Google Adwords.
- Have other sites link to you to increase your search engine traffic.
- Set your church up with a record on Google Places.
- Start a Facebook page for your ministry.
- Include your web site on everything (e-mail signature, signage, etc.).
- Set up a free blog and post updates. (wordpress.com – free).
- Put together a 4×6 card mailer (design/printing $200-300).
- Use Gmail for your e-mail (free) & a Google Calendar (free).
- Use e-mail newsletters to get the word out to your people ($10 per campaign 3cents per recipient).
Wrapping it all up.
It is critical that your ministry be clearly communicating the right message to your community. This message must be consistent with the character of our God as revealed in Scripture and one that clearly typifies what your church exists to do. Several years ago, I helped the church that I attend do a rebranding. When it came time to create an overview brochure, we narrowed the choices down to photographing two different families where God had worked to save and dramatically change lives. We wanted to send a specific message to people we meet in our community that God has the power to do the same life-changing work in their lives. At the end of the story, it is God who is to receive the glory forever, through lives who have heard the clear, simple message of His Son, embraced genuine redemptive change, and continue to live out that faith through lives conformed to Jesus Christ. That’s the ultimate message of the ages and getting that message across is what ministry branding is all about.