How can we be heard through the ever-increasing noise?

heard through the noiseI recently received an email from a friend who is frustrated by a sense of “needing to run faster to stand still.” He wrote,

I try and cross promote everything. And tweet about other stuff, and retweet other relevant tweets daily. And yet, the trend for my blog views is flatlining or drifting down. Despite more Twitter followers. Despite more Facebook fans and friends. I get a sense that there is just an exponentially increasing amount of overwhelming information hitting everyone these days.

How do you maintain, even increase, a profile, in these busy days? How to get attention in the midst of so many other wanting to do the same!?

I sympathize with him.

Last week we lost a long-time client after doing a system upgrade that affected his website. Even though we announced that changes were coming several times via several media over the preceding months he wrote, “I was very disappointed that OCC didn’t advise me directly… (I seldom read newsletters or visit the forum these days)”

Networks of Clutter and Clutter of Networks

Not too many years ago, getting someone to subscribe to your email newsletter was the holy grail of electronic communications. It was almost certain that they would read all of your messages. Today the average person sends and receives somewhere north of 200 emails a day. Most people skim, skip, delete or file away for later reading a large percentage of the email they receive each day.

With inboxes swamped many bloggers and blog readers turned to RSS readers as a way to read news and blogs. But as people found and subscribed to more and more news feeds and blogs, many became unable to keep up with that too.

Facebook came onto the scene and many organizations saw Facebook as a new opportunity to cut through the noise. If a person “liked” your org’s FB page, they would see its updates in their news feed. But then people “friended” hundreds of people and “liked” dozens of organizations, and now most people only see a fraction of the updates from their friends & orgs they like.

Then came Twitter…

Do you see a pattern here?

This isn’t working anymore.

Jumping on the newest, least cluttered network until it too becomes too cluttered is not the solution, because we have become cluttered with too many networks.

I don’t have a neatly packaged solution to this problem for you. I have an idea, which I’ll share with you tomorrow. But for now I’d like to wrestle with this issue together.  Would you comment and answer these two questions for me?

1) Are you feeling some of these same frustrations?

2) In an effort to find a solution, think about the communications you almost always receive and respond to (print, email, blog posts, newsletters, social media, phone calls). Who are they from? What do they have in common?

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, elder of CypressMeadows.org, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.

16 Responses to “How can we be heard through the ever-increasing noise?”

  1. Our church is definitely feeling the same frustrations. We’ve been discussing it quite a bit lately in our staff and communications committee meetings. What’s particularly frustrating is that people really do want the information we’re putting out (as evidenced by the emails/phone calls asking for information we’ve already published various ways), so we know the information is valued…people just aren’t reading/hearing it.

    Personally, I’m most likely to respond to a brief email from someone I know personally or am responsible for serving. If it takes me five minutes to read and digest a message, it will probably be set aside, and in the meantime dozens of other things will leapfrog ahead of it.

  2. Yes, I do have the same frustration, both from the getting a message across and dealing with all the noise I have on Twitter, emails etc. I think the changes recently on Facebook has made it even harder to get your message heard as often people will miss updates now. I found reading Kem Meyer's Less Noise, Less Clutter helpful. We have to be careful as organisations of adding to the noise producing stuff people don't really need. Quality, not quantity, sending out what is essential and helpful is perhaps the way forward for everyone.

    • PaulSteinbrueck Oct 20, 2011 at 5:50 pm

      Chris, I completely agree. The recent changes on Facebook have made it more difficult to for churches and other kinds of organizations to have their updates seen by those who have "liked" their page. And we do have to be careful in our efforts to be heard above the noise not to simply increasing the quantity of our communication and in the end raise the noise level.

  3. I am a recent blogger for church web site tips, and I am finding that "old school" methods are working the best. Allowing my hobby to come out in conversations and having a business card handy seems to be doing quite well. As I drive around town I take note of the various churches in my area and follow up with phone calls to meet with their pastors. All it takes is one pastor to get excited about it, and it gets passed around at the next conference.

    I agree that there are far too many outlets to compete in earnest. It does not stop me from getting the word out, and encouraging churches to do the same; since once those "old school" methods do work, they will need to find you on whatever service they use.

    • PaulSteinbrueck Oct 20, 2011 at 5:55 pm

      Stephen, specifically what "old school" methods are you referring to that are working best?

      You mentioned phone calls to individual pastors which is interesting because that definitely contrasts with mass online communications that seem to be having more and more difficulty getting through the noise.

      • Thanks for the response! Honestly, I followed my pastor's advice. Despite having a multi-site church with a few thousand people in our congregation, and a lot of technology resources (web site, twitter, fb, podcasts, videos, etc.)… the most common way someone joins our church and follows Jesus is by word of mouth.

        If my blog were to be an undertaking as blessed as the church, I wanted to do the same personal and intimate interaction with people of just talking with them. THEN they can find me on whatever medium they wish. So I'm blasting my message out on all the latest platforms, but am relying on word of mouth to get people to them. It's slower, but it feels more solid and real.

  4. One thing I try I focus on doing is being active on Twitter with relevant content, but also showing my personality by tweeting here and there about absurd or humorous observations, personal anecdotes, etc. That helps somewhat – I've had church partners we work with tell me they love the humor, so I believe that helps build some interest – they get to know a bit more of "me" and not just my message.

    Another way I try to add a personal touch is to send a handwritten thank you note to every church partner who buys from me. Despite my crummy handwriting, it's an old-school touch and I think really gets a lot of attention when people see I actually took the time to thank them, in writing, not with an email but with a thank-you card. I am genuinely thankful for each sale God brings my way and my prayer is that sincerity comes across in the sales process through how I communicate.

    • PaulSteinbrueck Oct 20, 2011 at 5:57 pm

      Carl, that's awesome that you send hand-written notes! Like the phone calls Stephen mentioned in his comment above, that sort of one-to-one communication stands out from all the mass communication.

  5. Although there are now more outlets to reach massive groups of people, there will always remain a hunger for creating real connections. It seems as though the pendulum always swings back. I think it's even more imperitive today to have messages that are clear, succinct, helpful, positive, and personable. Most of all, finding that fine line between having too many messages or too few. I tend to tune out those people or organizations that overload me, which means I am more likely to miss an important message. Of course, you forget those that you don't hear from enough. Though, I do tend to pay closer attention when I receive those messages as I figure it must be important.

    • PaulSteinbrueck Oct 20, 2011 at 6:00 pm

      Andrea, that's a great point about finding the balance between communicating too much and too little. I'm also sensing a theme here as you, Stephen and Carl have all mentioned the importance of real, personal connections.

  6. I agree with the comments about old school such as phone calls, hand written notes, even visits. An hour invested in a one-on-one conversation, where I can really explain who and what Realm Ministries is and does, is worth more than hundreds of hours of posts. You need to pray hard before beginning because rejections are easier by phone.

  7. PaulSteinbrueck Oct 21, 2011 at 7:15 am

    There seems to be a lot of agreement about the value of "old school' communications like phone calls and hand written notes, but what does that mean for mass communications (blogs, e-newsletters) and social media? We can't call or write a personal note to every person in our church, school, ministry or business every time we have news or an idea we want to share with all of them.

    How can our mass communications and social media be heard through all the noise?

  8. I think one of the keys to being heard is to limit perhaps not the number of communications, but the content. Focus on a few big ideas. Rather than trying to promote 30 different events or topics, pick just 1 or 2 for the month. And add value. Don't just broadcast, help people connect with a feeling or discuss how your church/ministry/event will help them with their everyday lives. Give them the why, not just there where and when.

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