Reaching Audiences Where They Are
OUTdrive Episode 31 with Chad McMullin
In this episode of OUTdrive, Cliff visits with Chad McMullin, Senior Minister at First Christian Church of Sedalia, Missouri. Passionate about ministry, church leadership and his community, Chad understands the importance of personalized communications to reach audiences and build relationships.
Read more on their thoughts about a variety of communication methods, remaining open to trying new things, reaching audiences where they are and the importance of empowering your team for success. They also share their perspectives on honesty, integrity, commitment and more values integral to rural America.
Leveraging a Variety of Communication Methods
Chad and his team have achieved the strongest results by reaching different audiences through a variety of channels. This allows them to customize communications and messages for each channel to best engage and meet the needs of each member.
Achieving these results requires consistent and valuable communication, which Chad explains. “Social media is big. Whether it’s Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, we are non-stop. Every day, my phone has something, if not multiple things from First Christrian Church,” he says. “We also use Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Survey Monkey, which is a new one we’re using with our existing members digitally and they’re engaging with it. We’re having good success and reaching a lot of people with a lot of things.”
Being in ministry, Chad and his team have unique challenges that other organizations may not. However, many marketing principles remain the same. They must focus on trying new things, finding what works, and personalizing communication methods to best meet the needs of their audience. In addition to social media, Zoom and other technology, they have also found success with radio.
Chad shares that radio is an effective way for brands to reach him personally, and the church has used it to reach others as well. “I was shocked when I became the pastor of this congregation and they had an actual budget line for radio advertising,” says Chad. “I was a little reluctant, but I did it for about a year, then two years. After that, people started saying, ‘Hey, I hear you on the radio.’ and they recognize my voice instantly. I’m sold, because it works for my church.”
Although Chad did not anticipate the effectiveness of radio, Cliff assured him that it continues to be effective in today’s digital age, especially in rural America. “Radio is a very powerful media. You may think with the advent of satellite radio, podcasts, Pandora and all the other audio platforms that radio would kind of just go into the distance,” says Cliff. “But it fills a very important role, and I think especially important in rural America, where people are listening for the weather, they’re listening for the local news or they might be listening for the farm report.”
Although social media and new technology may be the church’s primary strategy, traditional media such as radio proves to be just as effective. When building a communications plan for your brand, incorporate traditional media if it makes sense. When executed strategically, it can be a very effective component of a successful marketing plan and program.
Live Streaming Content and Creating an Ideal Online Experience
Trying new things and incorporating new technologies is also a part of an effective marketing and communications plan. Chad and the First Christian Church team are not afraid of trying new things, something that put them a step ahead during the COVID-19 pandemic. While congregations traditionally meet in person, technology offers the ability to meet virtually as well.
Prior to the pandemic, the church had a congregation member who no longer lived in town but wanted to be involved in worship services. She funded the technology and equipment necessary to host virtual services. Chad explains that they continued to engage more people, saying, “We started doing this for her, then we noticed that other people wanted to do it. We already had an audience of anywhere from 20 to 30 people watching our worship service every week before the pandemic,” says Chad. “When the pandemic hit, we realized we can stream some stuff and members can stay home, and it worked.”
For over three years, the team has been improving upon ways to host virtual services and engage members, even if they aren’t attending physically. However, Chad and his team realize that there is always something to learn and continue to improve each day. Giving his team the credit, he says, “It seems like every week, they have a new idea of how to make it better,” he says. “We keep trying new things and we’re having 500 people watching our worship service, yet there’s not a person in the building.”
As they discuss live streaming, Cliff emphasizes the benefits and convenience it provides congregation members and how this concept applies across the board. “One of the key things that we have found in all the marketing that we’re doing right now is that you have to take your message to people when they want to get it, how they want to get it, and where they want to get it,” says Cliff. “If you have something of interest that people want to see, and you can make it convenient and easy for them to get, then they’re going to consume that.”
Regardless of your industry, trying new things and prioritizing continuous education allows you to effectively and efficiently increase reach, awareness and engagement. Incorporating new things allows you to fine tune what works best for your audience and build the best communications plan to reach them. For Chad and his team, a variety of communication methods including social media, radio, live streaming content and others have provided great results.
Building and Empowering Your Team to Succeed
Regardless of the specific channels Chad’s church uses to communicate with his congregation and other audience members, he couldn’t do it without his team. As an effective leader, he knows the importance of building a strong team, utilizing the gifts and talents of each member and providing them with the tools they need to succeed.
He shares more on this while discussing the church’s social media efforts as well. “I have a variety of people working in that department. God brings us people who have these gifts, and I think it’s part of my responsibility and privilege to empower them and let them do it,” he says. “I think having people on your staff who speak the language of our culture that is evolving is helpful, and those moves have proven fruitful for us.”
Building an effective team and giving them the tools and freedom they need to succeed is vital for the success of any company or organization. With the right team and tools, you will be able to effectively reach audiences and build a strong communications plan to increase engagement and build relationships for sustainable success.
Gain additional insight from Chad and Cliff on incorporating a variety of communications strategies, empowering your team for success and more about life in rural America in this episode of OUTdrive. Check it out!