Less Clutter, Less Noise: 6) Know Your Audience
Today, we’re entering into Part 2 of Kem Meyer’s book, Less Clutter, Less Noise. which aims to provide some practical insights for how to make it all happen. I love this part of the book because it is precisely where our blog project can potentially reveal some fresh ideas you can pick up & apply in your own ministry workflow immediately.
In my mind, Chapter 6, “Know Your Audience” builds upon two myths Kem previously introduced: (1) that the mere activity of advertising (communicating anything) creates interest [Chp 3] and (2) people actually care about what you have to say [Chp 5].
The big idea here is that there is a gap between where you are standing and where the people in the pews are sitting. But wait, there’s more . . .this static picture doesn’t even begin to tell the whole story.
Because you have been operating solely from the worldview as *you alone* see it, the way your ministry has been communicating to the people is with a broadcast mentality.
It is critical to understand this one concept: Are you communicating to your people, or are you communicating with your people?
When Kem’s book was first published in 2009, social media was just being taken up by the masses. Today in 2011, the social web is something you can no longer ignore. Fortunate for us, we can now take advantage of what these platforms have to offer in our efforts to engage with our community.
**side note: did you see that subtle, but super-important move I just made in the last sentence? It’s not an “audience” you should be thinking about — it’s your “community”! Once you stop thinking in the one-way broadcast only mode of communication, your people morph from being a target into an organic network, waiting to be engaged in dynamic relationships.
Here’s what I’ve learned. If you have no way of understanding and connecting authentically with the people in your community, you’ll always fall prey to that gap between you and your audience. But if you make a fundamental shift in how you relate with your people, you’ll become relevant in your communications with the community.
Social media is uses the word social for a reason! By pursuing regular interaction with people on the social web as they live out their daily life in between visits to the pews on Sundays, you’ll become better at relating with them, speaking their language, understanding their needs…and fears. But it doesn’t have to stop at the keyboard and mouse. Take those approaches of connecting, conversing and collaborating offline to engage at all levels. In the end, you’ll know your audience as Kem exhorts us in this chapter.
How do we do this? This chapter provides starting points for how to step into the shoes of the people to whom you are ministering. But this is where self-awareness comes into play — only you know how to mix it up and really get out there to live with your peeps!
Aside from being intentional about interaction, I personally pursue randomization rituals that help me see things in a different light. What works for you might be quite different. But whatever tactic you pursue, you must figure out how to step out of your own shoes in order to take in the world with a new set of eyes and ears. Here are some more ideas for getting to know your audience:
- Host regular potluck dinners where you ask your people to invite one friend or family outside of church they know from work or their kid’s school. You’ll start to see a glimpse of how your members live & work when are away from the church. You’ll also start to see what interests those that haven’t attended your church yet.
- Reach out to have coffee or lunch with the mayor or city council members, chamber of commerce, emergency services, principals and other local leaders at least once on a monthly basis. When you sit down with them, don’t just update them on your church’s activities. First ask how can the church “pitch-in” with a project or their efforts this coming year? The greater township needs & concerns are big clues for what is of interest to your audience too.
- Civic groups are always looking for meeting space. Why not offer a classroom or office to use during the week? You’ll begin to build ties with people that are also invested in the betterment of your community.
- Monitor & connect with Twitter/Facebook users that are in your local area. Start with Twellowhood, NearbyTweets, or type in your city & state into Twitter Search. Once you see everyone in your area online, why not organize a TweetUp to connect the group in person? Their conversations are leading indicators for what’s happening around town.
Kem Meyer makes the case nice and clear. You can’t afford to still be operating from the vantage point of your old wedding pictures while the world has moved on. Are you ready to get to know your audience?
1. When you are defining your “audience” (or “community”), are you talking mostly of those that are already coming to your church? Or mostly people that haven’t walked in the door yet, but live in the surrounding zip codes? There’s a difference!
2. Would you dare to put a question like “What is one thing our ministry could do differently for first time visitors?” right there on your visitor/connection cards? Why or why not?
3. Take the number of hours you are “at work” during the Mon-Fri work week. What percentage of that time is spent with people that are NOT staff members or by yourself? What is the percentage you should aim for?