True story here: A church wasn't getting the response they wanted to get people to attend the various events of the church including small groups.
Their response: Instead of asking folks why they weren't coming, or doing an informal survey to see what they were or were not communicating with current materials, someone made the suggestion that the church start a new video newscast during the church service. The thinking was something like "this is what will appeal to people today."
Two interns from the local Bible college were the newscasters, and with a team and a bit of time and effort, produced a highly entertaining video. Announcements were made for more folks to join the news team and to help with the production; mention was made of upcoming events of the week and the congregation encouraged sign up for small groups. The congregation loved the videos for the two weeks they were produced. They were filled with chatty banter, silly jokes, and tasteful humor.
Did that increase attendance at church events and especially in small groups?
Sadly, no. There was no increased attendance in small groups.
Because they told people during the broadcast that there would be a table out in the lobby for people to sign up for small groups, and there was no table, it actually had a negative effect on sign ups.
Here's why this production didn't work (and these comments apply to many similar church communication multimedia):
- Multimedia used like this tells about an event. It is useful for announcements, for information. But telling about or making an announcement about an event is not the same as connecting people with the event.
- Multi-media is useful to spark attention or interest as it is taking place. The emotion seldom lasts beyond the showing of the multi-media.
- Interest or attention does not actually get you to the small group or other event the day or evening of the following week.
- There was no information either in print, in the bulletin or a bulletin insert or on the website that gave concrete connecting information on what small groups were taking place in the church or how to actually connect with them.
- Without this concrete information, people responded to the videos as they do to television commercials: they were entertained momentarily and then promptly forgot what they were about when the church service was over.
To make multimedia effective and use it to do something other than a few minutes of entertainment do these things:
- Pair your multimedia presentation with other communications that will tell people more about the event or ministry.
- The additional communication needs to be in more than one channel because different people respond favorably to different channels of media.
- One KEY channel should be your website. Be sure your URL is printed on the bulletin and prominently on the ad itself, so people can go to it for in-depth explanations, schedules, locations and contact information about small groups and other ministries that you will advertise. You can always follow a video with a screen that gives the website and leave it up for a few moments. In addition, if your church communications department develops the reputation for always having more information on the website, your church members will come to trust it and know they can go to the website for more information.
- Other channels include a printed form giving the details of the event that you created interest for on the video. For example if you want to get people to small groups and you do a snappy little PowerPoint or video to create interest in it, that interest won't go anywhere if you don't have printed in the bulletin who is coordinating the small groups, what groups are available, how to join, and how to reach the leaders including the contact phone and email.
- If you want people to show up to an event, be sure there is a bulletin insert/flyer that people can take home and put on the refrigerator with the details printed on it: time, location, map, cost, child care or not, who to contact for more information. People might remember that the church is doing a "really fun thing next weekend" but the memory of the cute video won't get them there. The flyer will get them into the car, on time and get them to the correct location with the money they need to bring. Our minds and lives are too full to remember details we saw in a passing video. In addition, if they want to invite a friend, a bulletin insert/flyer can be passed on to a friend.
- Once again, be sure to have the information always updated on your website so that people can check the details there. Also, check to make sure that these sections on your website can be accessed through a cell phone. More and more people are accessing websites through cell phones. Be sure your graphics do not block an area that someone might want to access. This can happen if your home page consists primarily of graphics that do not fit or scroll well on a tiny cell phone screen. If these are your only links into the site, the information on the site is not useful for someone without access to their desktop computer. Consider simplifying your site or even an alternate calendar site (perhaps with the .mobi extension) for church event details.
- Don't forget the importance of the people channel. A helpful and friendly welcome center, sign-up tables for small group membership, a booth for newcomer's information are all important. Nothing beats a friendly face and a kind person to answer questions and give personal information.
- Remember we live in a time of multi-channel communication print, the web, multimedia, and people. No channel can stand alone if we want to not only catch the interest of people, but actually connect them with a ministry at our church.
No matter how easy or appealing it might be to want to communicate primarily through one channel our message, the words of eternal life deserve our expertise in using every channel available.