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.

stop the broadcast

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?

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

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?

5) Myth: People Care About What You Say <– Less Clutter, Less Noise –> 7) Remove Barriers to Entry

Kenny Jahng is social media ringmaster & CEO of Big Click Syndicate LLC. Some of the many hats in his closet: Ad exec, PR guy, MBA, digerati, seminarian, husband & dad. He teaches ministry leaders & non-profits how to cultivate, communicate & collaborate with their communities online. You can catch up with his latest thoughts at Godvertiser.com or on Twitter @godvertiser

17 Responses to “Less Clutter, Less Noise: 6) Know Your Audience”

  1. PaulSteinbrueck Jan 24, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Hey Kenny, thanks for blogging and leading the conversation today. I find the whole topic of knowing your audience to be very challenging. We live in such a fragmented society that I find it difficult to find a common culture or be able to draw on common experiences. Most churches have people in them all across the spiritual spectrum from mature believers to people who have never cracked open a bible. Some people are on welfare while others are millionaires. Nobody watches the same TV shows, listens to the same music, or shops at the same stores. People hold vastly different political views. Some people are tech savvy and on their computers and phones all day while others don't even use a computer.

    How do you communicate to an audience that has such vastly different experiences, understandings, and opinions?

    I'd be curious to hear if anyone thinks they know they're audience and if so what they know about it.

    • I hear your question for Kenny but let me tell you your description of the church is awesome. Sounds like God is bringing the church out of its times of monolithic or narrow groupings into the whole Body coming together. What a challenge. Yes. But how exhilerating to hear and see the truth of what God has sneaked in on us!

    • While a community may be diverse, the very definition of community is a commonality among the members. if they are really all that different, they wouldn't stay together.

      Instead of looking at how diverse the group is, look for what they have in common. We are the body – we are not all hands, or feet, or eyes, or mouths – we each bring our uniqueness to the body and create synergy.

      As you prepare to have conversations with different groups, you do need to adjust how you will lead those conversations and how you will participate in them. A fantastic resource for this is John Maxwell's book – Everyone Communicates, Few Connect. In it, he talks about the differences in 1-on-1 encounters, small groups and large groups. Another must read!

      • PaulSteinbrueck Jan 26, 2011 at 6:00 am

        Hey Steve, thanks for your reply. I'm wondering hat percentage of people have to have a commonality for it to be a commonality? If 40% of adults have kids under the age of 18 is that a commonality? How about if 60% use Facebook? Or if 80% grew up without going to church? Where's the tipping point?

        I'd like to hear if you, Steve, or anyone else can give some examples of the commonalities among the people in your church?

  2. Great thoughts. One issue is to differentiate between the community you already have engaged in your ministry and those that you are trying to reach and connect with. These can be similar or quite different.

    For within the church, I think the key to knowing your audiences is privilege relationships. Often pastoral staff feel a necessity to maintain distance from the laity. But without having real relationships form with various subgroups within the church body, you will never know your audience. Giving people opportunities to voice their concerns, hopes and fears is also important – formally and informally.

    For outside the church, this need more effort, but can be very rewarding. Here, finding liasons from within the groups that can help inform you of felt needs is also a good strategy. This stuff takes a lot of time and energy, but that is the point, isn't it? These people and relationships are important!

  3. As a big fan of Kem Meyer and Less Clutter, Less Noise I find it very cool that you're basing some social media idealz using her book as a foundation :) One thing I noted in my chapter for The Big Book of Social Media was that while out audience may be local, our influence can be global through the use of social media tools such as twitter. As a former church planter that sat on a stool at floor level and spoke in a conversationl context, engaging people and requesting dialog, I dream of the day when communication–rather than broadcasting–becomes the norm rather than the exception in the local church.

    • Dave –I think most would agree that the benefits of a ministry being engaged in/on social media platforms is the secondary ring effect – global influence beyond the church walls per se. But even then we have to be careful that we're not abstracting the global reception of our messaging. It's possible to engage with those you haven't met in person just yet in real and authentic ways. So even with this "global" audience, I take Kem Meyer's call seriously…to really push even in these cases where it is easy to see it as simply tangential benefits. We can be very intentional in building relationships, even here on the social web. That's where influence really starts and matters.

      And to be even more specific, it's about doing exactly what you just did — commenting on a blog post — providing thoughtful feedback on other people's streams — taking the time to answer questions — really building up social currency without expectations for reward. Paying attention, active listening, responding with empathetic modes of communications. These are all first steps to what we mean "engaging" with others. And my point is that you have to go through this in order to really get to know who you're communicating WITH (not communicating TO!). Online and offline.

      Thanks for the reflections Dave!

  4. Thank you Kenny for your blog post. This has offered me much to think about.

    I love your examples. Our sr pastor (@jbrimmage) has started to take some of his leadership roles off of him and place them on the associate pastors so that he can start actively engaging in our community, by volunteering, meeting up at Starbucks, and being active in the school district. This is exciting. He started this last year and made some great connections.

    We have a long way to go, but there is also an opportunity for us as a congregation to adopt an elementary school in our neighborhood. I believe God is calling us to do this…it is slow in moving.

    I am going to seriously think about your Discussion Question #2…I like it.

    Thanks again, sorry I am late to post, yesterday was busy with meetings.

  5. Sarah, sounds like you're on the right path in terms of reaching out to your people!

    Regarding my Discussion Question #2 above — Yes, I think ministries that are "daring" enough to be transparent that their visitors matter to them would not only take people by surprise, it would really invite them in further.

    I'm checking out Pastor @Jbrimmage right now. Always good to find ministry leaders on Twitter that "get it"! FYI, here's my handle: @godvertiser"

  6. Kenny, again you encourage me greatly! For decades I have longed to hear more people sharing what you have in bringing the gist of Kem right into our personal realities. I have become more and more engaged in the Social Media over the past year and have found it does give an opportunity for conversation with more people as well as awareness of God's exciting ministries alive today.

    I have much to learn. Thanks for the suggestions. The three discussion questions make me wish I was back in a larger church setting. Would love to explore and run with them. But much is relevant to my ministry as it exists now. Again, thanks.

    • We're all learning, especially when it comes to relationship development.

      I believe you can contextualize my 3 discussion question challenges and apply them accordingly. Keep on truckin' Wayne!

  7. Great post Kenny! Really dig how you define what social really means. It's exactly how the church needs to be shifting as they aim to represent Christ in their community. Makes me wake up and be extremely thankful that the web is now social. Not sure how we existed in those years where it was pretty much static / boring. Thanks for sharing!

    • Gabe – thanks for checking in here with a comment. That's a great insight. But I want to push you further. My work over at http://www.Godvertiser.com talks about church & tech/social media a lot but it also aims at the overarching framework in which churches embrace their communities.

      I teach my clients "5 C's" of community building that I have found to be essential if you want a vibrant and dynamic community: You have to Connect people first – with you – but also with each other. You have to facilitate Conversations. You have to find common markers to rally around and build Community through identity, vision, etc. And only then can your people really Collaborate. This last one is a creation trajectory that comes out of the essence of who we are in His image. And when you have that momentum, the people then Corral or Convert others to your vision and start the cycle over again as they Connect with others in your tribe.

      All this mumbo jumbo above doesn't rely up on any social media. It depends on a posture that the ministry takes in communication and engagement. Being SOCIAL is that the church is at its core. It's all about RELATIONSHIP, right? If so, they we need to really think hard about what that means. Don't just do social, BE social.

      Hope that helps!

  8. Chapter 6 is the best part of the book, knowing your audience would be the key after my opinion.

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