Does Your Organization’s Home Page Welcome Everyone?

“If you’re not found in a Google search for churches in your area, you don’t exist to people moving into town.” That quote, by church planter and pastors.com editor Brandon Cox may be a painful truth to you, but it is a truth nevertheless.

The importance of a well thought out and designed website cannot be overstated. Today’s rapidly changing patterns of communication are founded within the digital world, and are only increasing in importance. Last year, the number of networked devices in the world DOUBLED the global population.

It is vitally important that you understand the way your viewers are viewing and using your website – not just your members and regular attenders.

THE QUICK SUMMARYEverybody Writes, by Ann Handley

Everybody Writes is a go-to guide to attracting and retaining customers through stellar online communication, because in our content-driven world, every one of us is, in fact, a writer.

If you have a website, you are a publisher. If you are on social media, you are in marketing. And that means that we are all relying on our words to carry our marketing messages. We are all writers.

In Everybody Writes, top marketing veteran Ann Handley gives expert guidance and insight into the process and strategy of content creation, production and publishing, with actionable how-to advice designed to get results.

These lessons and rules apply across all of your online assets — like web pages, home pages, landing pages, blogs, email, marketing offers, and on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media. Ann deconstructs the strategy and delivers a practical approach to create ridiculously compelling and competent content. It’s designed to be the go-to guide for anyone creating or publishing any kind of online content — whether you’re a big brand or you’re small and solo. 

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

At Auxano, we believe that every church is unmistakably unique and incomparably different. God doesn’t mass-produce His church. Your church has hundreds of current stories, represented by its current participants, and thousands of past stories, represented by those who have come before you.

How are you telling those stories?

This is not just true of your church in general, but it applies to your church’s home page as well. As noted above, your website is the digital doorway to your church.

Is it a welcoming doorway for all, or only a few?

Your home page is a metaphorical threshold to your organization.

It’s apt that we use the very human word “home” to refer to the main page of a website, because that word evokes warmth and belonging.

That’s exactly the mindset to get into when you create content for your own organization’s home page – the Web page that is rendered when your organization’s domain name is typed into a Web-enabled device.

Just as in your own actual home, you want visitors to feel welcomed as soon as they step in – to feel comfortable, to sense that you’re happy to see them. And because this is our organization, you want them to get a sense of their surrounding in the blink of an eye: an idea of who you are and what you do – and this is critical – why it matters to them.

Here are seven guidelines for creating home page content:

Speak to your audience. All good content is rooted in a clear understanding of your audience.

Communicate a focus on them. Part of understanding your readers is know what motivates them. When you know what that is, you’re able to communicate how you can help them.

Keep it simple. Don’t be tempted to fill space with lots of copy and graphics – especially above the part of the Web page that first appears in browsers when it’s opened.

Use words you audience uses. You don’t need to embellish who you are and what you do. Use familiar words.

Use you promiscuously. On your home page, use you more than you use us or we.

Now what? What do you want the reader to do next?

Convey trust. Your home page should include elements that suggest others trust you.

Ann Handley, Everybody Writes

A NEXT STEP

Brandon Cox, church planter and editor of pastors.com, has developed a very helpful “audit” for your church website. Using this audit at your next leadership team meeting will be a helpful start to conversations about your website’s home page.

To prepare, set up a large screen with Internet access. Also, make sure your team members have their mobile phones or pad devices. Do not tell them of the specific purpose of this session.

At the beginning, ask the following questions, recording answers on a chart tablet. Ask the team NOT to look on their devices for the answers.

  • Is our website responsive and mobile-friendly?
  • Is our most basic information easy to find on our main homepage (location, service times, etc.)?
  • Do we use imagery that tells people that we’re human, we’re alive, and we’re welcoming?
  • Can people easily know what we believe? What we value? And how we function?
  • Do we have links to our Facebook page and other social media profiles on our website?
  • Is there a way for people to reach out and get in touch with us without leaving our website?
  • Can people easily know how to pursue next steps such as baptism, joining a small group, or volunteering in an area of ministry?
  • Do we have a page dedicated to our staff and/or key leaders so that potential visitors can know who we are?

Now, ask one half of the group to pull up the church website on their mobile device, and the other half to look at the website on the large screen. Display a chart tablet sheet with the seven guidelines suggested above.

Go back through each of the nine audit questions again, this time answering them as they really are. Note any differences between initial perception and reality, making sure both screen and mobile platforms are covered.

At the completion of this exercise, create a top five action list of the most critical website revisions you need to make, along with assigned target completion dates and individuals responsible.


Excerpted from SUMS Remix 40-3, May 2016.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. Each Wednesday I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt here.

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Tell Your Story in Every Environment with Compelling Consistency

With so many messages competing for people’s attention, how can we most effectively tell our church’s story?

Every day, your church stewards thousands of moments of truth. Every time a member talks to a neighbor, someone drives by the church facility, a ministry email goes out, a pastor’s business card is left on a desk, some interaction on behalf of the church has transpired. Every time these events happen, the church’s vision grows brighter or dims in the tiniest little increments.

The leader’s role is to crank up the wattage.

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THE QUICK SUMMARY – Unique, by Phil Cooke

Today’s culture is more connected than any time in history, but all of this connectivity comes with a price. We live in a world that’s become cluttered, distracted, and disrupted by social media, with the average person receiving as many as 5,000 messages a day in one form or another. If you’re a pastor, nonprofit leader, artist, filmmaker, entrepreneur, or creative professional in this hyper-connected, highly distracted world, how do you get your unique idea, project, or vision on the radar of the people who need to respond?

In Unique, Phil Cooke, a highly respected media producer and consultant, addresses both the challenges and the opportunities of branding and social media in the 21st century. If you have a vision or message to share with the world, Unique provides a blueprint to cut through the clutter, communicate your story, and impact your audience.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

To maximize your ability to connect, you must invest time, mental energy, and resources to really discover and articulate your uniqueness — your vision, your essence, your story.

Stories inspire and capture imagination. Stories connect on personal and emotional levels. They help us develop relational connections.

That’s why it is so important for your communication toolbox to say who you uniquely are— what differentiates your church from the crowd.

The combination of the right words with powerful imagery compels engagement, insight, and memorability.

Most churches haven’t developed their story and leveraged great design to share it. Don’t miss the opportunity to tell your church’s story with design so you can really extend your reach. Shouldn’t the church connect and build relationships in every way possible?

At its core, branding is simply the art of surrounding a product, organization, or person with a powerful and compelling story. At its most basic level, branding provides answers to the simple human need to differentiate one thing from another.

The goal of branding is to win the hearts and minds of the largest audience possible and imprint an indelible story around your vision.

The power of these stories and the hold they exert over our lives is remarkable, and many would say the power of story is embedded in our genetic makeup. From the ancient days of the Israelite storytellers who recited the epic chronicles of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to the writers, preachers, and filmmakers of today, we are a story-driven people, and we use stories to make sense of life.

Stories work because we want to experience the emotions, feelings, and passions of others who have encountered the challenges we face each day.

During Jesus’ short time of ministry on earth, He had to teach a message that wouldn’t simply change people during His lifetime, but transform the world for ages to come. If you had faced that challenge, what would you have done?

Jesus did what many pastors in that position would probably consider a career killer: He started telling stories. Most of Jesus’ stories were just everyday people doing everyday things. They weren’t particularly exciting, romantic, or even thrilling.

Stories drill deeply into your brain and explode later with meaning. Sometimes the meaning comes when you least expect it. Stories impact audiences because each person interprets the story in light of his or her own personal situation and experience. As a result, the impact is far greater than a simple object lesson or teaching session.

In many cases, you can interchangeably use the words “brand,” “story,” “identity,” and, sometimes, “reputation.” Branding is about building trust and loyalty and extending your relationships far beyond a single transaction.

Stories are the central focus of the art of branding.

Phil Cooke, Unique

A NEXT STEP

How well does your brand tell your story?

Here’s a question for you: What’s the Nike brand all about? If you said “Just Do It” you would be incorrect – that’s their tagline. Their brand is really their mission – “Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world.” (By the way, the * is further explained by Nike as “If you have a body you are an athlete.”)

To help understand how your brand tells your story, watch this 5 ½ minute video from Nike with your leadership team.

After watching the video, discuss these questions with your team:

  • How much more important, and eternal, is the mandate of the church than a shoe company?
  • How well defined and well lived, and resultantly effective, is our church at telling our story?
  • Does our story create movement and reflect the heart of God for the church or is it just words on a website or worship service bulletin?

Many pastors tend to be skeptical of investing time and resources into working on statements of identity like mission or values or taglines, especially when things around church “feel” like they are going well enough.

When any organization lives their mission, the results are seen – and life change becomes possible. The marketing video from Nike sums up why, for them, people living out their mission is more important than people knowing their tagline. And shows how good they actually are at living it, better than most churches. 

What are three stories of life change that capture the essence of your church’s brand? How does your church’s mission statement move beyond generic statements to reflect these examples of your unique calling?


With the Gospel at the center of everything we do, the church, by its nature, is a message-centric organization. Jesus, the greatest story-teller of all time knew, before science showed us, that people are simply hard-wired to respond to story and images. And today’s world is becoming ever-increasingly visual, with selfies, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Consider this: there are hundreds of little moments of truth – touchpoints of connectivity – that happen each day.

Each of these are opportunities to share the message of the gospel. Are you going to make them or miss them?

Just by being more intentional with your brand, you really can capture more “makes” than “misses.”

When the communication gets cluttered, tell your story in every environment with compelling consistency.

Taken from SUMS Remix 26-2, published October 2015.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

You can find out more information about SUMS Remix here.

Subscribe to SUMS Remix here.

Unlock the Imagination of Your Audience by Using a Map

To help others see change, the leader must understand how to unlock the imagination.

The very act of imagination is connected to faith. The author of Hebrews writes, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). When a leader articulates, or provokes, a follower’s imagination, he or she is serving both God and the individual by exercising the muscle of faith.

Unlock the imagination of your audience by using a map.

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THE QUICK SUMMARY – Communicate to Influence by Ben Decker

Business communication is annoying. At each meeting and presentation, we are inundated with information, leaving us thirsting for inspiration. Sure, we will check off an action item because we have to . . . but what if we were actually inspired to do something? What if we were so moved that we wanted to do it?

Leaders must earn the license to lead. Not by expertise, authority, or title alone, but by influence. In Communicate to Influence, you will learn the secrets of the Decker Method―a framework that has been perfected over the past 36 years. Ben and Kelly Decker add fresh insights to these proven principles so that you can ignite change and inspire action. Discover:

  • The Five White Lies of Communicating: learn which barriers prevent you from getting better
  • The Communicator’s Roadmap: use a tool to visually chart what type of communication experience you create
  • The Behaviors of Trust: align what you say with how you say it to better connect with your audience
  • The Decker Grid: shift your message from self-centered, all about me content to relevant, audience-centered content that drives action

You are called to communicate well. Not only on the main stage, under bright lights, but every time you speak with your colleagues, your clients, and other stakeholders. It’s time to learn how. Stop informing. Start inspiring. 

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

When you inspire people, it is much easier to persuade them to buy into your vision and goals. In fact, they will move from a position of “have to” to “want to.”

How do we create an ideal communication experience for our audience? We begin by understanding what experience we are creating as communicators and by becoming focused and intentional about that experience. We need a navigational tool to help us get where we want to be. We must treat every communication situation like a new location, and input the destination of where we want to go. We need the Communicator’s Roadmap.

communicatorroadmapdecker

 

The vertical axis graphs our emotional connection with our audience. The emotional connections are what determine whether or not people like us, trust us, and want to follow. If there is emotional distance our audience will be disinterested or disengaged. At the opposite end of the spectrum, if you were emotionally connected to the speakers, you like them, trusted them, related to them, wanted to be around them, or at lease wanted to keep listening to them.

The horizontal axis represents our content, the actual message that we deliver. Are you distributing information, or are you driving action? The left side of the axis is reserved for information sharing. If the content is totally focused on your agenda, your ideas, and your goals, you have self-centered content.

The more you are able to focus your content and make it audience-centered, serving the wants, needs, desires, goals, and priorities of the audience, the more you shift the experience to the right side of the horizontal axis. The right side of this axis is action-oriented, and it is the part of the Communicator’s Roadmap from which influence flows.

Audience-centered content transforms the whole experience. You’ll influence the people in your audience and motivate them to action – and action is what communication is all about.

Ben Decker and Kelly Decker, Communicate to Influence

A NEXT STEP

The quadrants depicted and described above represent the types of experiences you need to create, not the type of communicator you always are. The descriptions should serve as reference points as you prepare for your next presentation.

Each key communication situation in your role as a leader needs a definition, so map it. Be intentional about the kind of experience you want to create and be intentional about where you’re going.

To help you become more comfortable with the map depicted above, practice the following exercises:

  1. A communicator’s highest goal should be to inspire (upper right quadrant). Think about a recent presentation or sermon you delivered.
    1. What quadrant did it start in (if not Inspire)?
    2. What kinds of actions could you take to move it toward the Inspire quadrant?
  2. Over the next week, observe people in various communication settings. Notice where they fall on the map. As a listener, how are you impacted by where they are on the map?
  3. The next time you dine out, don’t just focus on the food but think about the whole experience. How did the whole experience add to (or take away) from your meal? When you are preparing your next presentation, use your dining experience feelings to help you focus your total presentation experience.
  4. The next time you are at an event with multiple speakers, create a map of each of them, noting which quadrant they started in and where they finished. What stood out about the journey? Which speakers inspired you the most? What lessons can you apply to your own speaking journey?

Closing Thoughts

As leaders, we communicate in all we say and do. We may be entertaining at times, we inform much of the time, and occasionally we must be directing in what we say. But in all situations, we can inspire and connect with our audience.

It’s not what the leader thinks can be or even should be, but what must be.

Taken from SUMS Remix 29-3, published December 2015.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

You can find out more information about SUMS Remix here.

Subscribe to SUMS Remix here.

Four Words to Use Every Day

Most of the time we give ourselves more credit than is due for our conversations. When those conversations are intended to move the listener to take an action, we need to remember the following:

The significance of what we are saying is not always self-evident, let alone shocking and/or awe-inspiring.

It’s time for clarity, in two words:

So what?

Keep asking the question till you (and your audience) are satisfied that you are both clear on what is being communicated.

But don’t stop there: information without application leads to stagnation (a favorite quote of my pastor, Steven Furtick).

It’s time for transformation, in two more words:

Now what?

Your audience may have information, but have you given them reason to act on it?

Today.

Brevity

When it comes to effective communication, small beats large; short beats long; and plain beats complex. Sometimes, visual beats them all.

The quote above, from Dr. Frank Luntz in his book Words that Work, is an appropriate challenge for every leader. Good leaders communicate. They may use the written word, they may use the spoken word, they may use only visuals and no words, but good leaders communicate.

How are you doing in your communication? Are your words simple, to the point, and memorable? Are your words consistent with your actions? Can the reader or listener visualize your intent?

Or, are no words at all the best path to take? We live in a society almost overwhelmed by the visual image – and we ask for more! Sometimes, a visual image is the best “word” we can use.

Communication – written, spoken, or visual – is just a tool you as a leader have at your disposal. But what a powerful tool!

Communicate with passion, purpose, and persuasiveness in all your communications – and you will be well along the path to becoming a great leader.

inspired by, and adapted from, Words That Work, by Frank Luntz

Words that Work

What Are People Saying to Each Other – About YOU?

Satisfied customers tell three friends…angry customers tell 3,000.

The title of the book by Pete Blackshaw captured my attention and I wondered: Is this true for churches as well?

Blackshaw’s work documents how the balance of power for today’s businesses has shifted – the consumer is now in control. In the world of Consumer Generated Media (CGM) via Instagram, blogs, YouTube, social networking sites, etc. a single disgruntled customer can broadcast his opinion to millions and derail a company or undermine a global brand. Companies can’t ignore CGM, and have nowhere to hide. According to Blackshaw, the only response is creating 100 percent credibility by establishing:

  • Trust
  • Authenticity
  • Transparency
  • Active Listening
  • Responsiveness
  • Positive Affirmation

I know this is a business book, but the more I get into it, the more I find application for churches. Here are a few questions I have:

  • Are churches impacted by consumer-to-consumer communication?
  • Do churches have reason to be concerned about what people are “saying” about them?
  • How can churches find out if CGM is going on?
  • How can churches make positive use of CGM?

What do you think? What can you add to the conversation?

 

Doing Daily Battle with the Curse of Knowledge

My name is Bob Adams, and I’m a knowledge addict.

As such, I also suffer from the Curse of Knowledge. Best documented by Chip and Dan Heath in their excellent book Made to Stick, it is defined as:

Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it.

Our knowledge has  “cursed” us.

Curse of Knowledge

courtesy schneiderb.com

The Heaths recount a famous study done in 1990 by Elizabeth Newton as she earned a PhD in psychology at Stanford. She created a simple game in which she assigned people to one of two roles: “tappers” or “listeners”.

Tappers received a list of twenty-five well-known songs, such as “Happy Birthday to You” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Each tapper was asked to pick a song and tap put the rhythm to a listener by knocking on a table. The listener’s job was to guess the song based on the rhythm being tapped.

The listener’s job in this game is quite difficult. Over the course of Newton’s experiment, 120 songs were tapped out. Listeners guessed only 2.5% of the songs: 3 out of 120.

The real revelation came by what happened before the tapping game: When Newton asked the tappers to predict the odds that the listeners would guess correctly, they predicted the odds at 50%.

Fail.

The problem is that the tappers have been given knowledge (the song title) that makes it impossible for them to imagine what it’s like to lack that knowledge.

When they’re tapping, they can’t imagine what it’s like for the listeners to hear isolated taps rather than song.

That, my friends, is the Curse of Knowledge.

Once knowing something, it becomes difficult for us to share our knowledge with others, because we can’t readily re-create our listeners’ state of mind.

Becoming an expert in something means that we become more and more fascinated by nuance and complexity. That’s when the Curse of Knowledge kicks in, and we start to forget what it’s like not to know what we know.

Novices at anything perceive concrete details as concrete details. Experts perceive concrete details as symbols of patterns and insights that they have learned through years of experience. Because they are capable of seeing a higher level of insight, they naturally want to talk on a higher level.

That, most likely, leads to communication problems.

When you have worked for years in your particular area of specialty, it’s easy to forget that a lot of the world has never heard of your particular area of specialty, or at least at the depth you want to discuss it.

It’s easy to forget that you’re the tapper and the world is the listener.

How can you overcome the Curse of Knowledge?

The Heaths offer a couple of suggestions:

  • Giving our audience permission to ask “Why” as many times as necessary helps to remind us of the core values and principles that underlie our ideas and forces us to backtrack to the foundation of our passion.
  • Stories can almost single-handedly defeat the Curse of Knowledge. Stories have an amazing dual power to simulate and to inspire. Look for the good ones that life generates every day to get to the heart of the issue.

As for me, I will always have the Curse of Knowledge – I’m driven to learn more and more about many different topics. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. My passion and my vocation intersect in my job: as the Vision Room Curator for Auxano, I’m expected to dive daily into the vast and expanding knowledge pool out there…

…I’ve just got to remember that I’m a tapper, and you’re a listener. 

inspired by Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath

Made to Stick