In June, InChrist Communications and Grey Matter Research released a report looking at how ministries are approaching communications and looking for growth in a post-COVID world.
“Pivot quickly, innovating around barriers. Move forward; don’t stand in place.”
This comment from a survey respondent represents the takeaways from this report, “Enormous Expectations, Explosive Engagements: Communications Priorities for Faith-based Organizations in a Post-COVID World.”
The report, compiled with data from online surveys with over 100 ministry and business leaders as well as several in-depth interviews with non-profit ministry and agency leaders, reveals five major themes.
1. Striving for connection
Leaders want to connect with their target audience. As leaders think about their messaging emerging from the pandemic, the priority most often mentioned was “engaging our audience as participants in our cause, rather than as recipients of our information.” Leaders want their brands to be personable, relatable, and emotionally engaging, creating a sense of community. Relationships and community are important, and leaders recognize that.
2. Heart over head
Leaders believe that it is good and beneficial to appeal to emotions. They want to target an emotional response from potential donors both when communicating their needs to donors and when showing donors the impact that the organization is making. Leaders were seven times more likely to call for emotional or inspirational ways of communicating their communications strategies than for more rational or objective ways of communicating.
3. Live and virtual channel strategies
Leaders want to do more live events and capitalize on opportunities with video. Of the survey respondents, 49% that they would like to see their organization increase (or begin using) video on their website, and 39% of them said that they would like to see their organization increase (or begin using) live, in-person events. The next two preferences of channels that leaders would like to see their organizations use more were social media and small group or peer-to-peer interaction. The top overall strategy that leaders said they wanted to implement was doing more with video—specifically with videos on their own website rather than on third-part sites or television.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders learned again the value of both live and virtual events, and they want to continue incorporating both into their strategies moving forward.
4. Confused role of brand
Leaders believe that branding is important, but they struggle to understand what branding actually is. One of the top two messaging priorities for leaders is making their brand unique and communicating that uniqueness with others. Building an emotional connection with their audiences is one of the top four messaging priorities for leaders, which is also a significant aspect of branding.
However, in the research, many leaders struggled to talk about what their brand was as far as brand identity or personality. When discussing brand, they tended to drift to talk about mission, strategy, or something that is not unique to that organization. In general, leaders don’t practically know what it means to be unique or how to go about creating a unique brand.
5. Same goal, different tactics
Agencies and ministry leaders aren’t on the same page. The research in this report included people who work in agencies or as consultants for ministries as well as people who are work directly in ministries. The study shows that ministries and agencies don’t have the same vision of where they want to go.
While 70% of agencies say that their priority is to “make our brand unique from others that may be doing similar work,” only 32% of ministries say that. Meanwhile, 42% of ministries want to focus on “details of exactly how we’re accomplishing our ministry goals.” Only one out of ten from agencies would say the same thing.
In the research, this gap between agencies and ministries existed across the board. This could come as a result of ministries failing to listen to agencies or of agencies failing to understand their clients’ priorities. It may even be a combination of these factors.
Click here to learn more about this research and to request a copy of the report.