Less Clutter, Less Noise: 3) The Myth: Advertising Creates Interest

someone to relate to
Written by Rick Phillips

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someone to relate to“Advertising doesn’t create interest; at best it creates awareness. And, that is not always a good thing. Cancer has awareness, and nobody wants that.”

I have owned my own business for over twelve years now and have been in church communications for over four and truer words may have never been spoken about advertising than those above. I think we often get caught up in the norm of marketing/advertising “the other guys are doing it, so it must work right?” Not necessarily. In this we often lose touch with our audience.

Due to a “glitch in the system” my business was dropped out of the phonebook about 3-4 years ago. At first I freaked out and called the phonebook company complaining and ranting and raving, but as time went on we found that we didn’t notice a measurable difference in business at all. We’ve had a few people comment on it but they still found us another way. This was not how people found out about us or sought out our services. We thought we had to be in the book because “that’s what you do” but people did not relate to us this way. They learned about us through the positive experiences of others. Word-of-mouth advertising makes up about 85-95 percent of our business. People relate to each others experiences not to a listing or ad in the phonebook.

I have found Kem Meyers book Less Clutter. Less Noise. A marvelous resource for myself, my business and the communications team at our church.

For me, the big take away from Chapter three are the two key ingredients of advertising or marketing:

  1. Be clear, concise and to the point.
  2. Relate.

While you need to be informative, the message should be clear, concise and to the point. Don’t bore them with all the facts and figures. “This is happening, this day/time, here.” Really? Can it be that simple? Yes! Many times we get caught up in the “production” of an ad that the most important thing gets lost. Also, we are often too close to the subject and want to present all of the information we can so they can make a well informed choice (see chapter 2). What, when, where are the most important facts but sometimes wind up the smallest piece. You may notice I left out the who. The who can combine with the where ( XYZ Church at 123 W. Anywhere St.)

Just as important, if not more, is to RELATE. This is very similar to what the Church is ultimately about, relationships. This may sound silly but, if they can’t relate, they won’t relate. People want to relate with you. That may take on many appearances but ultimately needs to be real and true. In order to relate you need to know your audience. Get out there, mix and mingle, talk to them, ask questions, LISTEN.

“Businesses work hard to think like their customers to find simple ways to connect. Don’t you think we should work harder at this virtue, too?”

You could have the best website out there but if your typical audience doesn’t relate to the internet or computers then what is the point? Is your church on Twitter? Is anyone else in town? Do you use Facebook? Do they? If IT doesn’t relate, they won’t relate. Don’t be fake about it. We do have an advantage here. We don’t have to try to be like them. We already are them. We are all real people with real lives and real problems, it’s not that hard. Be real and relate.

Questions to consider:

  1. Do you know your community inside and outside the church?
  2. How can you better relate with them?
  3. How can your communications better relate with them?

2) Is it always better to have more choices? <– Less Clutter, Less Noise –> 4) Myth: It Worked Before so It Will Work Again

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About the author

Rick Phillips

Christ follower, husband, father, bald guy, church communications director, massage therapist, Jesus freak, wanna be writer...
Twitter: @rickphillips


  • I love the reminder to RELATE!

    I think we often forget that when we create new content, we are looking at it from the viewpoint of A FOCUS GROUP OF ONE!

    It is always valuable to ask for informal feedback from people in your target audience — whether it be youth group, elders, new mothers, and especially friends or co-workers who don't attend your church for outreach communications pieces. Many times basic questions are not answered quickly enough in our messaging, so it is practical to ask a fresh set of eyes questions like: Is it clear what the topline takeaway is? What is the call to action in their view? Who's the "owner" of this message — which person, group or organization is behind the message or event being communicated? Are there Christan buzzwords or jargon being used that confused or detracts from the point?

    A great lesson I learned during my days working in an advertising agency was about billboards. The most successful billboards in terms of recall are the ones that boil down the headline to just 6 words. Yup. Don't put any other copy on the billboard except 6 words and your logo. Otherwise you are forcing the driver (at 65 MPH!) to process unnecessary clutter — and the human mind just refuses to do it — hence many billboards are literally just passed by people perfectly matched to your target audience. What a shame! The same thing goes for our print, web, radio communications regarding church — have you really tried to be precise and concise?

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Rick!


  • Thanks for your thoughts. I think that the phone book illustrations is a superb example of how church conduct their communications. We worry that if an announcement doesn't get in the bulletin or in the newsletter that no one will read it. Honestly, those mediums may not be the best way to get the word out.

    We need to focus a lot more attention to making our ministries and groups GOOD and less attention on making sure everyone knows about them. If your small group is well-planned, filled with lively conversation, and placed in a comfortable setting… people will tell their friends. That is so much more powerful than any bulletin announcement.

    • Another thought on being remarkable…

      Unfortunately, it seems like a lot of churches are striving for ordinary. A lot of churches use the same mission statements, the same strategies, the same sermon series, and the same music as other churches, but try to do it a little better than everyone.

      I also see a lot of churches striving to help their people live ordinary lives. The focus is often on helping people improve their marriage, raise good kids, get out of debt, live at peace with everyone around them. Not that there's anything wrong with those things, but we seem more intent telling people God can help them out of their pain and insecurity rather than that God wants them to leave their comfort zone and risk everything to join him in the remarkable adventure of building his kingdom.

  • I really can relate to this post. Any time I try out a newsletter, ad, press release, or anything else related to communication, I try to pay attention to what other groups are doing and what I like best. Usually my critiques of the communication strategies of others helps me see what I need to do. However, it usually takes someone other than myself to determine whether I've been successful at meeting my own criteria. 🙂

  • I think your communications need to support your congregational member.

    They need to have the confidence in the communication piece when they give it to a friend.

    I remember inviting some friends to our Christmas outreach and remember passing on the postcard invitation and seeing my friend examine the postcard.

    I had confidence to pass it on because I liked the design and I also had confidence in the Christmas outreach we were producing. So when they examined it I knew that the communication piece would be received positively whether they could come or not.

    It clearly communicated the what, why, when with the branding of the outreach event on it.

  • Another great summary and another great post. Thanks. I kept getting two different messages: 1. Be concise uncluttered and to the point (There's a lot more I can work on in that department), and, from other sources, encouragement to write the message out so people know more about what you are saying and thinking. Are these incompatible? When does concise become too little? Or clear tight writing become clutter? But I guess this is a bit of the topic of advertising. I very much agree with what Kem has said.

  • Actually plenty of advertising works – Because it builds relationships. Plenty of church advertising doesnt work because it doesnt: find the pain and increase it; find the relationship connection and basically it is just pretty terrible.
    Advertising also need to advertise to the networkers – not to everyone – just the people who will tell people.
    Plenty of sermons also dont work – same sorts of reasons: didnt build a relationship; didnt find the pain and increase it so I can hear what you have to say- lets get rid of those preachers as well!

  • This is a great conversation. We're working on taking our graphics down to a more simplified level, too. Keeping the logo, the where, when and how with a graphic that paints a picture taking us straight to the point. Boom, there it is. It's something that can be incorporated into a variety of media…billboards, posters, postcards, website graphics, church announcement videos, facebook…whatever works for your audience. It is truly an exciting thing when the staff wants to make all of this custom to our environment, rather than trying to keep up with the Jones'. We're a growing church plant in a small town, not metro, so we need to reach the people where we are at.

    Connecting with the people that "tell" the people is huge. So often our volunteers are out there getting the job done that they miss out on what is going on. The leaders of the volunteers have to come up with ways to communicate info to their teams. Often, relationships get that done; rather than handing them a bulletin on their way to serve in the nursery, parking team, etc.

  • […] 3) The Myth: Advertising Creates Interest <– Less Clutter, Less Noise Amber is soon to be wife (January 29th, 2011), sister to the funniest kid she has ever met, and privileged to serve at such a wonderful church as Community Church. She has been in involved in ministering to children and youth for 10 years. This is her debut guest blogging but you can check out more of her thoughts at or follow her on Twitter: @msamberuh communications change, Less Clutter Less Noise Three Dimensions of a Total Church Communications Strategy […]

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