A Super Simple, Totally Doable Weekly Social Media Calendar

First, this: I didn’t come up with this plan myself. It’s a combination of input from folks who spend a lot more time building social community than I do, at places like Gwinnett Church and Saddleback Church. But it is tailored to the less-resourced model that I work with.

Our weekly plan looks like this:

Missed it Monday: a sermon quote, ministry highlight, or interesting detail from Sunday that can pull folks in to watch the recording of our sermon or live stream.

Team Tuesday: Highlighting people who are part of a team: volunteers, staff (usually the behind-the-scenes staff), mission teams, etc.

Word Wednesday: Thoughtful, inspirational quote or Bible verse, always as a graphic. If you don’t use Photoshop, get the Canva or Spark app on your phone.

Throwback Thursday: Obvious. Doesn’t always have to be way back. Could just be “last year on this day…”

For You Friday: Highlight something that you’re doing for the community. If you’re a church, your worship services don’t count (unless you’re doing something special that non-churched people will be drawn to). If you haven’t got anything going on that Friday, share an event from your local community calendar that people might want to know about.

See You Tomorrow Saturday: This is just for churches, obviously. Offer a little preview of what you’re doing the next day, whether it’s a YouTube video of a new song you’re doing, or just a teaser for the sermon.

Without a dedicated social media team at my church, having this framework makes it easy for us to keep our weekly stream of content flowing. This plan frees up more brain space for creativity and craft.

The All-Important, Under-Used Elevator Pitch

Before I got into church marketing, I spent time in several completely different industries: retail banking, enterprise software, and private education. All required different approaches to marketing, communication, and sales. But if there’s a common thread across all of them, it was this: the products and services I was helping sell were complicated.

Communicating about complicated stuff all those years taught me a lot about messaging. When potential customers are going to hear information from multiple sources, over a long period of time, about complicated stuff, there has to be a simple, clear, and repeatable message that ties it all together. That’s not easy with products and services that have a complex value proposition and a long sales cycle.

And there’s a lot of similarity between those challenges, and what churches face in today’s post-christian, non-religious culture.

This is why I tell every ministry leader I work with to write an elevator pitch for their ministry. An elevator pitch is a simple, one- or two-sentence description of who your ministry is for, what it does, and why that’s special. There are a few reasons for this:

It ensures consistency across different media channels.

Church communicators promote ministries across multiple channels: live announcements, bulletin copy, email newsletter, Instagram graphic. Most people won’t get their information from just one channel. An elevator pitch helps keep your message consistent across

It keeps your creative on-task and purposeful.

In the documentary Briefly, some of the leading creative minds in advertising and design talk about the importance of the creative brief. It ensures that all their creative work done on a product or advertisement stays on-message. If you’re in the creative business, watch this documentary.

Think of your elevator pitch as the logical counterpart to the creative brief. It helps the pastor who’s trying to word a clever, memorable announcement keep the story straight. It helps the designer creating a graphic for social media understand what kind of image and font they should use. It keeps your creative team effective because it keeps their work true to its purpose: shining a light on your ministry.

It helps your customer be your best advocate.

You can’t repeat what you can’t remember. The more simple your message, the more memorable it is, and the easier it is to repeat.

This is really important for churches: it isn’t just what you say about your thing, it’s what other people say about your ministry.

The Formula for a Successful Elevator Pitch

  1. It starts by clearly defining your thing: “[thing name] is a _____” (fewer words, the better; if it’s a program, call it a program).
  2. It identifies the target market: “for the ____ (person who might participate in your thing)
  3. Include the value proposition: “…that offers ____”
  4. It sets your thing apart by telling people what makes it unique: “Unlike other [things], [our thing] will help you…

An example:

“Celebrate Recovery is a weekly gathering of people who are overcoming the hurts, habits, and hangups that can keep us from living our best possible lives. Through both large group teaching and meaningful small group times, CR offers support in the context of a meaningful relationship with God that is unlike other step programs.”

Try this approach next time you need to communicate anything across a large segment of your audience. It works!

The Three C’s

Every time I meet with a leader who is looking for my help convincing other people to participate in their event, program, activity, or ministry, I reiterate a basic principle of marketing communication that I call The Three C’s. This is especially helpful for self-declared “non-marketers,” but anyone looking to clarity of their own communication should keep them in mind.

These 3 C’s are near-universal characteristics of any memorable, actionable marketing message:

  1. Clarity;
  2. Connection;
  3. Call to action.

I’ll admit, if you’ve spent more than five minutes in marketing, these seem pretty basic. But it still amazes me how often they’re overlooked our ignored when people go to communicate about their event, activity, program, our service. So let’s take a deeper look at each of them.

CLARITY

Resonance: clarity, depth, fullness; evoking or suggesting images, memories, and emotions.

Resonance gets misused a lot in our post-modern, individualistic culture. We use the phrase “this really resonates with me” to indicate that a message has meaning to us in particular. This is a misuse of the word.

When something resonates, it means that it’s clear to everyone. Think of a fog horn, a or a church bell: those are deep, full sounds that resonate. They may evoke images, memories, or emotions, but their overriding characteristic is clarity: we hear it loud and clear. It cuts through the other noise.

So how do we get our messages to resonate? Start with your elevator pitch. That short, to-the-point, plain-language description of the thing you want to tell people about is the foundation of your communication. It’s the smallest possible amount of information you can deliver that still gives people a clear understanding of what you’re talking about.

CONNECTION

Relevance: connected to the matter at hand; appropriate to the current situation.

I’ll admit it: the word relevant is overused. I hear “that’s not relevant” all too often, mainly as an excuse to not engage with an idea. Most of the time a person declares something irrelevant when they mean it’s not relevant to them.

A better way of expressing relevance is like this: your target audience hears themselves identified loud and clear in your message. In other words, you’ve connected with them. It doesn’t mean your target audience is the only audience for your message; it just means that all the words you’ve chosen have your target audience in mind. Meaningful starts with the message, not the listener.

A great example of this is how we recruit people to be Stephen Ministers. Stephen Ministers are volunteers who undergo extensive training to be able to counsel people who are in a difficult time in life, offering emotional support and help. It’s beautifully simple, but it’s also all too easy for people to think “that’s not me; I’m not gifted that way.” So we start with a message like this:

“Anyone out there on social media? Facebook, Instagram, Twitter? Ever notice how everyone’s life looks amazing on social media?

“The truth is that for most of us, real life isn’t like that. In fact, for some of us, it’s nothing like that. Some of us are really hurting. It might be divorce, unemployment… or just a rough stretch of time when you need someone to walk with you through this hard time. That’s what Stephen Ministers do. They’re folks who have the empathy to simply be there for those among us who need help getting through a hard stretch.

“Now you might be in need of a Stephen Minister, but we know there are some out there who are hearing this message and thinking, maybe I could be a Stephen Minister…”

Catching peoples’ attention by starting with the nearly-universal phenomenon of being on social media helps us make the message more relevant, connecting with more people.

CALL TO ACTION (CTA)

The word Recourse gets a bad rap; it sounds like legal trouble. But the primary definition of recourse is “a source of help in a difficult situation.” A source of help! Is there a better way to describe the way churches should think about how they embed a CTA (call to action) in their communication?

If you’ve clearly expressed your big idea, and made it relevant to your target audience, you’ve given people the information and the motivation to make a decision. The best thing you can do at that point is offer them some help in the form of a clear, simple change in their course of action (recourse… get it?).

Define clear next steps, and make them as simple as possible. Be the person hearing the message, and think to yourself, what am I going to do now, based on what they just told me?

I edit copy all the time that leaves out 1 or more of these things (most often the CTA, but all of them at some point in time). Each one is universally helpful.

So, non-marketers: if you get in the habit of treating the 3 C’s like a checklist, you’ll find that writing promo copy isn’t that hard after all.