I subscribe to several blogs and newsletters. So, I frequently receive emails or RSS feeds with articles, information, and announcements. Yesterday, I got an invitation to download an eBook. What was the eBook about? I don’t know…or at least I didn’t know for a while. Why?
Because of the use of acronyms.
Acronyms and abbreviations can be great. They can save a lot of space when writing and who really wants to say a whole word theses days anyway (ykwim), but please take the time to tell me what the acronym stands for. It’s probably a good idea to include the explanation of acronym more than once not because I’m not too bright, but because I’m probably just going to skim your message at first and I may very well miss one of your acronym explanations. At OurChurch.Com, the company I work for, we offer a church marketing service called the “Top Church Search Ranking” service. Internally we call it the TCSR because it’s easier, but it’s clear that is only for internal use, on our website and when talking to members, we always use the full name of the service. Even then, we usually include an explanation of what the Top Church Search Ranking service is.
So, what does this have to do with church marketing? Well, churches use acronyms and abbreviations from time to time, so there is a direct association, but more than acronyms, churches tend to use “churchese”, a language unique to churches. Believe it or not, people who don’t attend church, don’t use a lot of the words we church-folk do. Using terminology that is unfamiliar or strange sounding to the unchurched is creates a barrier. Even the church-going population may not totally understand what your message is because every church tends to have its own dialect of churchese.
In my church we have a senior’s group called Forever Young. It’s a catchy name and the seniors love it, but if you are visiting our church or reading a message from our church and we refer to Forever Young, will you know that is? If all we do is refer to it as Forever Young, you may think it’s a youth group, or children’s program, or something else. Businesses run into this issue all the time. They come with creative names for their products and services and then send out ads about them and refer to them on their website. Unfortunately, the 99.99% of the population who don’t work for the company don’t know what they are referring to.
Clarity Is Key:
Creativity and brevity are great, but in the end, if you have to sacrifice clarity it’s probably going to end up backfiring, especially in marketing. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be creative (I love a good creative ad), but the primary goal is the get your message across. So, whether you’re designing a billboard, setting up an Adwords ad, creating a web page, or sending out a flyer, be sure your message is very clear. Don’t be afraid to explain things (briefly). You may even want to run it by a person who is not a member of your church (or not a church-goer) and see if they understand the message clearly and quickly.
What do you think? Is using church talk or acronyms an issue with your church marketing? How have you addressed that issue?
Kurt Steinbrueck is a Deacon at his church and has been Director of Marketing Services with Ourchurch.Com for over 5 years providing Christian search engine optimization services including a service specific for church marketing, the Top Church Search Rankings service, a church search engine optimization service. Please contact Kurt at OurChurch.Com if you would be interested in getting better rankings for your church in the search engines.