“If it’s not on the website, it doesn’t exist.”

Let’s suppose you heard about an event or activity that kind of piqued your interest. Maybe you saw something on Facebook about it, or you heard someone mention it in a conversation, or you’d seen it advertised somewhere. It sounded relevant to you or someone you know, but at the time, you didn’t take action to investigate it.  You were too busy, or an interruption happened – whatever. The point is, you know about it, but you don’t know enough about it to take action: when it’s happening, where it’s happening, how you sign up… if you need to sign up. So you start looking for more information.

Your search probably doesn’t start with Facebook, or Instagram, or Twitter, unless you saw it on social media to begin with and have a pretty good idea of who posted it. You could go to Google, like almost everyone does. Or you could think about who’s hosting the event, and if you know who they are, you’d go to their website.

Those second two things, by the way, should always have the same result: people end up on your website.

If you’re part of an organization that runs a lot of events (like a large church),  this phenomenon plays out dozens, or even hundreds of times per week. Your communications or ministry team gets the word out about an event, but many people in your audience don’t have the app, email, or printed piece of information at their fingertips when they decide to take action. So what do they do? They go to the web and look for details, probably starting with Google or your calendar/events page.

This is why I have one rule about promoting events for any ministry at our church: information about that event must be online before I even consider promoting it. I say this all the time:

If it’s not on the website, it doesn’t exist. 

My church has a lot of people who run ministry activities and events; there are at least 40 leaders who run both large and small events, spread across 5 locations. Some of them are one-time events, some recurring. Some are targeting niche audiences, some are broad outreach events. But in all cases, we know people are going to look for info about those events online.

With so many leaders and events, but only two communications staff, we run a decentralized operation when it comes to many of our communications functions. One of those functions is publishing events to our online calendar. Think about it; local news organizations like Patch.com and Wicked Local have been doing this for years. Anyone in the community can publish events on these local calendars.

Our administrative support staff are all trained on how to add events to our website calendar, and are given thorough training on how that process works. They are coached on things like using natural language for SEO, and how our CMS handles events.

(This is very different from having access to main pages with evergreen content, which is limited to just a few superusers within our organization).

So when it comes time to promote some ministry activity or event, our communications staff starts with one simple check: we look at our website calendar to see if it’s there. If it’s not, we let the leaders of that event know that it’s not an option to promote it until it’s there. If it’s not on the website, it doesn’t exist.

Details, for those who are curious:

  • Our website is hosted by Monk Development, and we use their Ekklesia360 CMS.
  • We get about 200k visits to our site each year, and our events page is generally in the top 5 most-visited pages on our site.
  • Our attendance is just under 4000 per Sunday.

Teaching Series Graphics Aren’t Ads, They’re Book Covers

One of my favorite TED talks is by acclaimed graphic designer Chip Kidd. He’s a designer who’s worked for NYC book publishers for almost his entire career, designing book covers.

Just book covers.

The thing I appreciate most about Kidd isn’t his talent (which is significant) or his presentation style (which is flamboyant), but his respect for the authors of each book he works on. He treats every cover project like he’s designing a sacred vessel to carry the author’s artfully crafted work to the reader.

Anyone who designs graphics for churches should take their work just as seriously, because sermon series graphics* are basically the same thing as a book jacket.

Think about it: they’re both visual introductions to long form content. They’re both meant to spark enough curiosity to get someone to take action: “pick up this book” or “click on this link.” They both make a promise about what’s behind them, offering a glimpse without giving away the big idea.

Kidd refers to this as balancing clarity and mystery.

Clarity is the connectedness of the visual design to the information behind it. It’s how closely the design matches the content. Things like maps, wayfinding signage, and operating instructions need clarity.

Mystery is what sparks our curiosity. You look at a sign because you need to find your way somewhere. You look at a work of art because it makes you think.

Signs and directions should be easy to read, and take little time and effort to process.

Artwork should take longer to process, forcing you to dwell on it, and consider what the message behind it art is. Like this:

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*Sermon series graphics are the designed artwork we use in digital and print communication channels to show people what our current teaching series is all about. Look at any teaching-centric church’s sermon archives on their website, and you’ll see what I mean. Please don’t call these graphics “logos.” They’re not.

The Creative Brief, Part One

Every project worth your time starts with a plan: the definition of the need, the desired outcome, and the measure of success.

When it comes to creative projects, the plan also includes a critical piece of communication called the creative brief.

The creative brief can be a cumbersome document if done incorrectly. If done well, however, it can lead to groundbreaking work that goes beyond what anyone expected.

This video is a look into the thinking of some of the leading creatives in advertising, design, and architecture around the mission critical brief.

It’s worth your 26 minutes, trust me.

www.vimeo.com/107567840

When you’re done, read my second post on the creative brief for a simple format you can start applying to your creative projects, today.