Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Marketing Yourself and Your Ministry-Elizabeth Givens

In an era when personal communication is ubiquitous and easy, each missionary has become their own marketing director.

Jen started the email letter with “When I received my teaching schedule for the year, I thought ‘oh, this is very manageable.’” Then she proceeded to describe how the semester went bonkers and she ended up teaching seven courses. God was blessing and she loved her work but it was crazy. It’s that first line that got me reading. I could hear her voice, almost, and then her honesty about the difficulty she faced drew me further in.

When we write our supporters and prayer partners, they want to hear our voice. They want honesty. They want to know we are real people.

The bottom line is that most of what Christians know of missions, or think they know, they learned from missionary letters. If all someone knew of missions was what you write, what would they know? Are you perpetuating the myth that puts missionaries on a pedestal or are you carefully teaching about culture, contextualization, and real life experience with each email you write?

In an era when personal communication is ubiquitous and easy, each missionary has become their own marketing director. Financial and prayer support follow interest and we can generate interest when we write regularly, concisely, and interestingly. Keeping your readers involved requires work.

  • Tell good stories that teach what your life is like.

  • Write less—more often.

  • Sort through the ideas in your mind before you start writing and edit, edit, edit, how much you send.

  • Don’t overload on family news. Your prayer partners want to know about and pray for your family, but strike a balance between “all about us/me” and “all about ministry.”

  • Write clear, understandable prayer requests. Give enough detail so someone can actually pray today, and tomorrow, and maybe till they hear from you again. Be sure you reader can distinguish who is who in your prayer requests, even if you don’t use real names.

  • Use creative formatting to help your reader track through the screen. If you include pictures, size them to 50 kb or less so the email downloads quickly.

  • Include contact info and make sure people know where to send money! Never frustrate your reader on contact info.

  • Say “Thank you” often, regularly, and with deep sincerity!

Finally, remember that some people still don’t do email but may be invaluable prayer partners. Twenty years ago we used to mail 700 paper letters; now we email 350, including churches that send the email out in bulk. BUT there are 30 people who still get a paper copy and they are top prayer warriors.

Marketing your ministry should be a challenge that you take on with prayer and hard work. If God has put you in missions, it is worth your time an energy to do a good job and gather a following of faithful readers—who also will pray and give and maybe, come and join you or go somewhere else in the world.


Wendy said...

Great post, even if I don't like your title.

Wandering words said...

Somehow we have a bias against the word marketing as missionaries, but it describes what we do -- even if we don't like the negative connotations.

Wendy said...

That's probably because most companies "market" by telling lies or at very least, half-truths. Missionaries should be different to that. Unfortunately the word carries those negative connotations with it, whether we like it or not.

KarenKTeachCamb said...

This reminds me that God knew that I would need to know how to write well when I initially studied Communications (Public Relations major) at University, even though I'm now a Primary School teacher. Great thoughts. I agree with Wendy though about the title, the whole idea of "marketing" has connotations of selling things that people don't really want or need.

Traveling Words said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wandering words said...

@Wendy, I agree that marketing has negative connotations, but it is stronger than "sharing" or "writing" or other terms we might use. The strongest link to missions is individual to individual and if we are not good writers (as KarenKTeachCamb says) we don't make the most of that link. Increasingly, we as individuals are responsible to keep our donors and prayer partners informed. They don't want the institutional information, they want to hear from us. And yes, like it or not, we have to market ourselves and what we do so they can understand. That doesn't mean we snooker them into getting a product they don't want, though! It just means we tell the stories in language they can understand, in contexts they will enjoy, and in ways that are targeted to where they are and what they know already.

Wendy said...

I think we need to coin a new word! My dictionary says "market" means "sell". I don't feel comfortable with that concept. Though I do agree we need to write well and develop that relationship. We need to write honestly and openly, though, not with the idea that we are a product we need to sell to others. It goes against the idea of being a servant and working as a team with supporters. I inform others about what is going on, so they can pray.


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