New Media and Changing Digital Landscapes
We recently shared part-1 in a 4-part series exploring the ideas and topics discussed in a recent podcast with IJM. In that article, we talked about marketing, donor-development, and storytelling with IJM, and you can read that article HERE. Today in part-2, we’re going to discuss new media and changing digital landscapes. Our current marketing landscape is changing rapidly. It can be difficult and feel overwhelming to try and keep up with all of the changes taking place. During our podcast interview with Brittany Baker, the Regional Director of Marketing for IJM, I asked her about a hard lesson she’s learned marketing in ministry. This was her response:
“For me, my current role is currently direct marketing and digital marketing. The digital world is growing rapidly and it is always changing. I’m seeking to find my relationship with that world and how I can keep up with that rapidly changing world? I’ve learned a lot trying to find the balance between making mistakes while making sure we’re succeeding.”
New Media and IJM
This should be encouraging for every marketing and creative director in the ministry sector. The Regional Director of Marketing for North America at IJM is saying, “This is a difficult space and we’re learning a lot through trial and error.” It’s easy to look at IJM and think they have it all together, right? We find ourselves in this reality that we are all trying to figure new media out. It’s hard. The internet is still brand new. This is a global culture shift like nothing we have ever seen before and there is going to be a learning curve. It can be scary and uncomfortable for those of us who knew life pre-internet, but be encouraged because it’s new to everyone including the “gurus.” The possibilities for your ministry and ultimately your Kingdom impact are endless if we are willing to learn, try new things, make mistakes, and dive into the deep end. Here’s what we do know about new media, it opens up the potential for exponential growth, it requires consistency, and it demands our attention.
So, what are my recommendations for success in new media and changing digital landscapes? I believe there’s a couple of things we can learn from Brittany and there are two big takeaways. First, you have to be committed to putting in the effort for the long haul. You’re going to make mistakes. IJM is admitting to making mistakes all the time, but they are putting forth effort and learning from those mistakes. During our interview, I asked Brittany if she follows anyone for guidance in new media. She gave a couple of examples linked below, but her main point in answering that question was to encourage organizations to follow a handful of ministries you respect and watch how they handle new media. Sign up for their newsletters, give to their organizations so you can watch how they handle donor care, follow their social accounts. The lessons you’ll learn will be immensely beneficial.
The individual I follow and trust the most is a guy named, Gary Vaynerchuk. He runs a handful of companies, most notably VaynerMedia, and his insights are super helpful. Prepare yourself, he has a pretty foul mouth, but since the invention of YouTube, he’s been pretty spot on with every major industry projection. I follow Gary because pretty much anyone else teaching new media principles is regurgitating what Gary puts out. I have not found a social media “specialist/guru” that isn’t simply repurposing Gary’s content. More than what he says though, watch what he does because that’s where I think you can learn the most. His content production is incredible. The rate at which he’s putting out content at scale across every platform is astounding. Now, he’s got an entire production team behind him to help with that content production, but you can learn a lot of lessons just watching his content output. Here are three primary things you’re going to learn when watching Gary:
- CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING. As you tell stories and create content for social media, it’s so incredibly important to be contextually relevant on the platform on which you are sharing.
- CONTENT IS KING. The more content you can put out, the better.
- DOCUMENT, DON’T CREATE. If you watch Gary’s content, he’s simply documenting his life as a business owner. Everything he creates is contextually relevant to the platform on which he’s sharing, but it all comes from documenting his day.
Let’s walk through number 2 and 3 in greater detail. Number one would take an entire blog series on its own.
Content is King!
In addition to Gary Vaynerchuk, I also follow a ministry called Frontier Alliance International. They are one of the first organizations I’ve found that is creating content at scale across multiple platforms and mediums. Whether they would say this or not, FAI is following a Red Bull approach to content production. FAI is acting as if they are a media company that just so happens to be a ministry providing discipleship-making training and conflict zone relief aid. In the same way, Red Bull is a media company that just so happens to sell an energy drink. If you follow FAI you’ll see them create some form of content on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times per day, whether it’s a video for YouTube, an episode of one of their handful of podcasts, or educational content shared on Instagram or Facebook, Frontier Alliance is storytelling at scale. If you want to be relevant in new media your content production must be as high and consistent as possible. The struggle with creating that much content though is coming up with something new and fresh all the time. That’s why Gary V. recommends documentation over creation.
Document, Don’t Create.
As I touched on earlier, if you watch Gary V. you’ll notice that he documents his life rather than creating new content every day. He actually says the same things over and over again, but he’s saying it in front of a new crowd during keynotes, or he’s saying it during a podcast interview with a new guest in his studio, or he’s saying it in a meeting with an employee that he just so happens to be filming. His stories are all the same. I’ve heard his original story a thousand times. I’ve heard his recommendations to create content on LinkedIn and TikTok right now (because those platforms are showing the most significant growth), on repeat. On any given day there isn’t much he’s saying that he hasn’t already said.
Here’s where I think things get really exciting for ministries. God is at work creating new stories every single day because He’s actively working, redeeming, rescuing, and saving every single day. ALL WE HAVE TO DO IS DOCUMENT WHAT GOD IS DOING! There are endless stories of how He’s working taking place all over the world and we can pull from those stories for fresh and new content. In our last article, I showed what IJM did with a single story over the course of a month. I showed how a ministry can take 12 individual stories of redemption and create enough content for weekly production for a year. What if you, like FAI with their podcasts and articles, simply added educational and informational content to that production strategy? For most ministries, your yearly content production would be overflowing. It wouldn’t take much for most ministries to produce content at scale, and with that level of output, WE DON’T HAVE TO MAKE SOME FINANCIAL ASK EVERY TIME WE COMMUNICATE WITH A DONOR/POTENTIAL DONOR. Simply document what He’s already doing through your organization. Most ministry leaders I know are speaking regularly at churches or as guest speakers. Document that and repurpose the content for social media. Educate your audience on your issue or cause, walk your audience through the history of the region you’re working in, inform them on strategy changes or ministry decisions, share the geopolitical landscape of the region where you work, and most importantly, inspire them with the stories of how God is working through your ministry.
I titled this article, New Media and Changing Digital Landscapes. I don’t have all the answers on how to be effective in new media. I don’t have all the answers for how to deal with the seemingly constant changes to our marketing world. If I said I had the answers, you probably shouldn’t ever listen to another word I say. Again, this is the largest global culture shift in human history, if someone tells you they have all the answers, they’re lying. What I’ve shared today is what is proven in this space. We need to create content at scale. We need to be contextually relevant on the channels we share, and a proven method for creating content at scale is to document rather than create because if you’re simply creating “new” content you’ll run out of ideas soon. Remember, it’s easy to document when we serve an infinite God.