[guestpost]Note from Darrel: This article is a guest post by Daniel Stephens. Daniel and I connected over email and I’ll soon be writing a post for his site as well. Daniel is a counselor, husband, father and a gifted writer. While we have two very different writing styles, I know you’ll enjoy this post on content marketing and how it can work for your church.[/guestpost]
In a business context, I describe the Marketing facet of Content Marketing as a combination of two disciplines and two audiences. The two disciplines are education and journalism, and the two audiences are consumers and professionals. Those two pairs combine for four basic functions: Consumer Education, Consumer Journalism, Professional Education, and Trade Journalism. That might sound overwhelming, but you will rarely be doing all four functions at once.
The Content facet of Content Marketing is acknowledging two realities: content (text, audio, visual, print, or digital) is created as a natural result of the four functions above, and repetition with variety is the mother of learning. After acknowledging those two realities, the fifth function is content repurposing and repackaging. You have content assets, now the goal is to deliver them in as many different formats as possible, and distribute them through as many different channels as possible.
The Periodic Table of Content is an excellent tool to help realize how many different combinations are possible.
In a ministry context, preaching and bible studies can function as consumer education. A pastor’s blog or non-sermon podcast can function as consumer journalism, Albert Mohler’s podcast “The Briefing” is an excellent example. The blog and podcast Rainer on Leadership are great examples of trade journalism and professional education.
Your pastor doesn’t have to be Albert Mohler or Thom Rainer for your church to be successful at content marketing.
1. Content Marketing is Content Stewardship
There was a time when only the steward given ten talents could do it. But technology and globalization have combined to reduce the technical skills and budget needed to make it happen. Today it is possible for the steward with one talent to be successful at this.
The weekly sermon recording is due the same type of stewardship as the weekly offering collection. It can easily and inexpensively be repurposed and repackaged into a podcast or audio book, or transcribed to be turned into a digital or print book.
At a minimum, every sermon should be transcribed. This can be done with acceptable accuracy for as little as $0.33 per minute. If your pastor preaches for an hour every Sunday, you can transcribe every sermon for less than $1,100 per year. Transcription on Fiverr is incredibly inexpensive.
For example, my pastor recently finished a sermon series on Esther, and I am working through the process that I suggested. Here is how the process and budget works out.
- 6.5 hours of audio, which I am having transcribed on Fiverr by Debbie Rojonan for a total of $136.50.
- The final transcript will be about 60,000 words. Editing costs on Fiverr will be $200 to $300 for the first manuscript.
- I or my church’s elder board will edit the first manuscript (free)
- A local seminary student will combine the elder board’s edits into the final manuscript ($300)
- ISBN Registration will be $250 for 10 ISBNs (the ISBN site is down at the time that I am writing this)
- Upload the manuscript to Ingram Spark for the print and eBooks, and the audio to ACX for the audio book
- Total cost = $986.50
- Products Produced: hardback book, paperback book, eBook, audiobook
I am actually budgeting $1,200 for this project, so I have more than a 20% margin for extra costs. At the end of the project, I will have produced four products for about $300 each.
Assuming an average of $5 return per sale on any of those four products above, I would only need to sell 240 to break even.
Even if I don’t break even, using the process above, there are still several ministry benefits:
- Meeting the felt needs of the transcriptionist, editor, and seminary student by providing employment
- Putting sermon content in front of three people outside of my church, with an active engagement in that content
- Each product developed points back to my church as a form of advertising
Will the process outlined above lead to a quality level on par with a professionally edited and traditionally published book? I cannot guarantee that the answer is, “yes.” Even so, remember that it in the parable of the talents, the unfaithful steward’s primary fear was perfectionism.
2. Content Marketing Stewards Time
Beyond the weekly sermon, how many things to you find yourself saying over and over again, to different people, in different places? Some of this is unavoidable, and will always be part of doing ministry and building community. But some of this can be reduced by repurposing and repackaging content assets such as:
- the church newsletter
- the weekly bulletin
- elder meeting minutes (or the similar document for your church governance model)
- announcements during service
- church membership class
- bible study leadership training
We are still refining the process at Parkside, but automatically emailing the monthly church newsletter has already saved us a substantial amount of time in redundant communication. The tool that we use for this is MailChimp. We use the same tool each month to send reminder emails for people to submit their newsletter content, which saves even more time.
3. Content Marketing can be a Solution to Theological Famine
To be clear, maximizing the text content of your website can be a solution to theological famine. Here’s how:
Google’s stated mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” There are two steps to making that happen:
- Worldwide internet access (this is going to happen with or without the Church)
- Machine translation of the internet to all languages
I know that machine translation is lower quality than human translation. And I believe that when it comes to the Gospel, any presentation is better than no presentation.
Here is the 7 step process that I suggest churches use to make their church website a solution to theological famine.
- Record every sermon
- Transcribe every sermon (hire people on Fiverr to keep it cheap)
- Use automated translation software on your website (read this article for how)
- Using Google Analytics, take note of the foreign language visits on your website
- Use the information from step 4 to prioritize languages for human translation
- Hire human translators to translate your website (you can hire translators of Fiverr too)
- Repeat 1-6 as often as possible
4. Content Stewardship is not Arrogance
My church averages only 50-60 people every Sunday. In a conversation with someone outside my church, they actually told me that I was being arrogant by trying to maximize the value of my church’s website, and trying to make my small church compete with larger ministries.
If that were true, then the unfaithful steward was actually being humble, and the master’s expectation of faithfulness was unfounded. The attitude that looks at deliberate effort to improve on something, and calls it “arrogance” is the same perfectionistic attitude that would wait for perfect conditions before trying anything.
Every church should do their best to steward the digital resources that God has made available to them. If you’re doing your honest best, and leaving the results to God, then you’re being faithful. You are only being arrogant if you do your best and then expect someone else’s results.