MARKETING IN RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS
“Our organization does not do marketing campaigns.” That’s what a VP for one of the largest Protestant denominations said to me during a recent conversation. I gasped silently and thought to myself, Did I misunderstand his statement? Unfortunately, I had not.
To be honest, the world of faith does not intersect easily with seemingly big-business—read, “unspiritual”—concepts such as marketing. Most faith groups are legitimately concerned about the influence of unethical “spin-doctoring” in the practice and promulgation of belief. They see such manipulation on a daily basis, so it is no wonder that they have an almost visceral disdain for certain business practices. They have a point—and then they don’t.
No matter how insular the group, or how parochial its focus, all faith groups have to communicate a message. Some actively seek to push their messages to the masses, while others do so internally. Whether internal or external, whether they know it or not, they are marketing. They are promoting—something.
It is essential that religious organizations engage in ethical, mission-focused marketing campaigns to better achieve their organizational goals. For the sake of clarity, allow me to make a seemingly obvious statement: Promotion is a core function of marketing. Not coincidentally, promotion is at the core of what most religious organizations do, hence my utter dismay with the VP’s statement. How can organizations that exist to promote certain messages do without the apparatus to make it happen?
Likewise, campaign need not be a dirty word to religious organizations. A campaign is an organized course of action to achieve a particular goal. Who can be against organized courses of action? When we put marketing and campaigning together, what we get is a systematic way of achieving an organization’s strategic communication objectives through a series of organized actions to promote an idea or message.
Measured by this definition, most religious organizations would have to admit that they do some marketing. Whether those initiatives are intentional or not is a different story? The marketing campaigns of most religious organizations amount to little more than flyers that draw little attention, let alone achieving their objective. Some create a page on Facebook and pray. Are their efforts customized to suit their unique congregational needs? Heaven forbid! The key to a successful marketing campaign lies in strategic planning and execution. Until religious organizations prioritize these steps, their marketing efforts will be hit or miss—mostly miss.
With a message so important, would it not be a sin if your religious organization neglected the crucial step of communicating its message effectively?
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