This is the second half of a previous post titled How to Communicate Better with Content You’re Already Creating, Part 1 of 2. Click here for part one.
In my previous post on how to use your content in your communication, I talked about the strategic shifts from hype to help and from interruption to invitation.
As you think about the ways you communicate with your networks, ask yourself this basic question: Does what you are communicating add value to others’ lives?
Some of the most valuable kinds of communication are not teasers, but actual content itself. Here are 17 types of content – text, photos, and videos – that you can share with others through social media and other channels, to both help those to whom you speak and at the same time to clarify who you are – your brand.
1. A Quote.
Quotes are succinct, pithy observations on life from somebody notable, including writers, thinkers and your own church or organization’s leadership.
(Helpful tip: Don’t quote Abraham Lincoln or Albert Einstein.)
While researching best web practices for our website at Peachtree, my colleagues, senior pastor Vic Pentz and executive pastor Marnie Crumpler, and I liked the way Saddleback Church used key quotes from their senior pastor Rick Warren on their home page to help cast vision and teach core values.
Using previous sermons, I researched a set of Vic quotes and sent him a collection of possibilties, from which he picked a few favorites. Then, one of the members of our creative team (Bert Neal – he rocks) laid them out in shareable form. Here is one:
What to do: pull from your own leaders’ best sayings. Gather a collection of a few favorite people and sources, then mine their material for quotes which highlight the vision of your ministry.
2. A Thought.
These insights from leading thinkers and writers, or your own thoughts, are slightly longer than a quote and typically more specific and topical. Whereas a quote is more values-oriented, a thought or proposition is more likely to be a rhetorical statement, expository observation or life principle. They often come from published material, or simply from an insight that enters your head on a busy day.
Not only are these helpful to your audience, they are clarifying. The more you do it, the more tightly you hone your message to your audience and yourself. Someone good at doing this is educator and Facebook friend Brian Ross. Here is an example:
What to do: If you’re a preacher or a church communicator, review each week’s sermon for a short segment that captures the theme well. If you’re not only an orgnaization’s curator but its voice, pay attention to assumed insights that pass through your mind, and capture them for others.
Note that since they’re usually longer than a quote, thoughts will fit Facebook and LinkedIn but will need to be converted to an image and/or linked for Twitter and Instagram.
3. A Sermon Video Clip.
A two to three minute video clip of a sermon insight or illustration. Videos embedded right in people’s Facebook wall can be very effective.
During a sermon about prayer about Peachtree, Vic had a nice two-minute segment on what it means to worship with passion. Purely a little spiritual nugget right in the middle of their day:
Vic Pentz on what it means to worship with passion.
Posted by Peachtree Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, August 25, 2015
The best ones aren’t just teasers to some deeper topic, but offer real, helpful spiritual insights. They also have no direct call to action or marketing ROI. They’re just there to help.
What to do: Start by reviewing recent sermons. In my experience, though, the best ones come real-time, in that once you have ears to hear, you’ll spot them as you listen to the sermon.
4. A Question.
Most content marketing is built on declarations. But questions can be content, too, and just as helpful. One pastor who’s excellent at asking questions to his online parish is Shane Bishop. Here’s one example that generated dozens of responses:
What to do: If you’re researching a topic for a talk, sermon or piece of writing, pay attention to the problems and needs that need answering. Ask questions based on these needs.
5. An Encouragement.
Part of what makes Shane so good at social networking is that he talks to people, not his computer screen. The questions from #4, and an encouragement like this one, are both examples of relationship-oriented content.
What to do: Think not just of a message or the channel you’re speaking through but the people on the other end. What battles are they fighting and what encouragements would help?
6. A Teaching Video Clip.
These are different from sermon segments in that they are recorded and edited specifically for distribution. Here is an example from my friend Frank Thomas.
In this video I talk about the signals that you'll be able to identify that you be undergoing a change very soon. I also discuss the effects before that change happens. What are some of the signs you know of or perhaps experienced that show things may change soon?
Posted by Dr. Frank A. Thomas on Friday, May 27, 2016
These require thought, but don’t have to be polished or high-end. Some of the best are viral and simple, like Chewbacca lady. Production can be polished or recorded with a phone, but the important question to ask is, what do you want to communicate?
7. A Story Video.
At Peachtree, we produce short video stories a lot – 2-3x a month on average. As much as possible I like to match the stories we tell with the themes and topics of the sermon series we’re in. When you do it right, these stories become the call to action for the sermon theme and make for great content in other channels such as your church’s Facebook wall. Here’s one example:
What to do: If you produce videos for worship, think about other channels as you make it, and try to make the videos “evergreen”, or the kind of thing you can air in a year or two or in other spaces. We made this Rutledge camp video in 2013, but it still works every June when camp rolls around again.
8. Daily Devotional.
A link to a morning devotional is a great way to help people start their daily with grace. If you do this, I’d recommend making it a regular practice to help those who might come to depend on it as a part of their routine.
Click here for an example from Peachtree’s Daily Devotional email list, written by Mark Crumpler.
9. Study Material
These are usually links, with intro sentence, to a “longer read” deep dive on a current worship theme and can include curricula, guides and study materials excerpts, Sunday schools lessons, classes discussions and Bible studies. This area in many churches is a treasure trove of great content, often generated by highly qualified teachers and seminarians, which draws on a deep well of church-generated content each week.
What to do: Talk to Bible Study teachers and members of your community who write curricula. Look for ways their material integrates with larger themes in worship and church life.
10. Ministry Images
This includes photos of missions, music, programs, campus life, and more. Here’s a little photo-based mini-message of our Sandy Springs Red Dot small group buying alarms for school kids that links to learn more about Red Dot.
— Peachtree Church (@peachtreepres) September 29, 2015
11. A scripture text or image.
Especially great if it’s related to the previous or coming Sunday’s worship theme. YouVersion and other places have the ability to create scripture images easily. Here is a sample from our regular Wednesday scripture feature on Peachtree’s networks, which are managed by another star member of the Peachtree Creative team, Ginny Nickles:
12. Ministry-specific content.
During a series on prayer at Peachtree, general aids reinforced the theme and gave people a tool they could actually use in their prayer life.
Laura Harbert, at Fuller Seminary, shared a prayer that is one we can pray no matter what life transition is happening. #peachtreeprays http://ow.ly/SxdDG
Notice the link promotes the church’s Fuller seminary connection, and the marketing, but it’s very subtle, and the emphasis or “point” of the post is a prayer that helps and not “Come to our Fuller class!”
13. A “Theme builder.”
Explorations of core metaphors, online video clips, and other material related to current sermon series themes.
For example, if you’re doing a series on creation, such as we did at Peachtree recently (here is the series), then you could build intrigue and add to the teaching impact of the series with thematic posts such as this link on the incredible size of the universe.
What to do: Preachers are often the best people for info gathering, and leave lots of great material on the cutting room floors of their sermon. Look for leftovers that may work, if not in the sermon, online and through other channels.
14. A Bit of Data.
I find that people are very responsive to a little statistic or piece of data – nothing too overwhelming, but just a miniature a-ha moment. The text copy in this Peachtree Food Drive Facebook image post uses a statistic that sets up the need:
1 in 7.5 people in Atlanta don't know where they are getting their next meal. Mission Partners like Buckhead Christian Ministry are there to help! Let's stock the shelves at BCM this October. http://ow.ly/SRqTq
15. A “How-to” or answer
As I mentioned earlier, one of the most common reasons people log on is to solve something. Posts that answer common questions, whether they’re about how to improve at your spiritual discipline or how to unclog your toilet, tend to do well – the more specific, the better.
For example, this posts on decorating your church campus with big photos has done well on my site.
16. Playlists of worship songs in Spotify.
People often want to know what songs they heard in worship on Sunday morning. We produce a short list on a slide and project onto the screens each Sunday. You can also share this online.
17. An advertisement or promotion.
I list this last because it really needs to be low on the totem pole. Often it’s the most frequent type of content we publish. Remember, the shift is from hype to help. You can occasionally hype something, but the more helpful you make it the better.
What other ideas for content can you think of?
- Much of this content is social-media oriented but don’t short change your other channels. Bulletins, campus screens and worship can also be great locations for good content.
- This takes time. To do this right, you need to find someone to do this, whether you call them a publisher, editor or content curator. Collecting and posting this requires a good amount of reading and writing and analyzing. Find a dedicated volunteer or contractor to lead this effort. You might have a single voice or several.
- Not all types of content are equal. Consider a breakdown of this list by percentage, with more on sermon excerpts and propositions from leaders, and less on ads and promotions.