Every generation lives out their faith and calling within the context of their particular culture. The apostle Paul lived out his ministry in the context of Roman domination; William Wilberforce campaigned in Parliament under the shadow of the British slave trade; Dietrich Bonhoeffer struggled under Nazi occupation.
Today, we live in a media-dominated culture and must operate our churches, ministries or nonprofit organizations in that technological context. In a previous age, all a preacher needed to be successful was a good Bible, a calling from God and strong lungs. But in today’s digital culture, where a typical American deals with as many as 5,000 media messages a day, how does the voice of your church, ministry, nonprofit organization – or your great idea rise above the racket? Here’s a few thoughts:
1) Understand you’re facing more competition than ever. Sure your nonprofit or church is fantastic. Sure your movie or book idea is life-changing. But that’s not enough. You also need to cut through the clutter and get it noticed. Words like “marketing” or “branding” matter today, so take them seriously and get good advice on how to tell your story more effectively.
2) Become unique. Marketing experts call it your “unique selling proposition.” In other words, what makes you different from the competition? Stop trying to be like everyone else and start looking for ways to separate your idea or project from the pack. To be noticed, you first of all have to be different.
3) Think about packaging. In the old days, a great message or purpose was enough. But today, with so many other choices, how you deliver the message is just as important as the message itself. How your church looks, your book cover, the movie trailer, the quality of your product – all can be the gatekeepers that decide if a potential donor, customer, or audience member takes the next step.
4) Become the best in a smaller niche. I tell young directors in Hollywood – “Don’t try to be the best director in the industry, start by being the best director of a certain type of film, or a certain budget level, or a certain genre.” The smaller the niche, the less competition, and the easier to get noticed. Once you’ve become the king of your niche, then you can grow to greater levels of recognition. But start by becoming the best in the world in a very narrow area of expertise.
5) Get your ideas out there. I started writing for really small industry magazines for free, and speaking at tiny media conferences nobody even knew about. But after awhile I started getting noticed. That opened the door to my blog, which opened the door to self-publishing, which opened the door to traditional publishing, which opened the door to major magazines and platforms like Fast Company, Wired, Huffington Post, and more. That opened the door to bigger conferences.
All of which is what brings potential clients into the door of our media production and consulting company, Cooke Pictures. But it all started with getting my ideas out there on a small level and then building from there. Are you taking social media seriously? Are you writing a blog? Are you offering to speak at small, even insignificant workshops or conferences? When it comes to media and publicity, people don’t really care about you, they care about your ideas. Get them out there and watch them work for you.
The world is changing, and if you have a message, vision, or calling, you need to get it heard. These five steps are a great place to start.
What’s the most important next step you need to make?
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For more than 30 years, Phil Cooke has helped nonprofits find their purpose and is now applying this experience to individuals: “During a long career in the media business I’ve talked to hundreds of writers, producers, directors, designers, executives, and other professionals and discovered that in most cases, one thing is all it takes to launch a project or dream.”
Learn more about the writer Phil Cooke