How to structure your messaging for maximum impact
Picture this television commercial: We see a sporty BMW cruising down a beautiful, winding coastal highway. The road is empty, the top is down – it’s a picture-perfect driving scenario. An emotional soundtrack captures the energy beautifully, only to be punctuated by a narrator’s voice: “This is an automobile. A road-going vehicle with four wheels, a gasoline-powered engine, and the ability to carry a small number of people to various destinations. It is a BMW and it is unique because it is luxurious and sporty. Get one today at your local BMW dealer.” Now, other than the fact that the shear ridiculousness of this ad might get people talking, it would be a terrible way to approach selling a BMW. Why? Because it uses almost the entire ad telling you something you already know about cars in general. Then, it provides very little information to explain why this BMW is more worthy of your money than any other car in the industry.
All of this probably sounds rather elementary. I imagine your scratching your head, wondering why I’m stating such an obvious point. But bear with me, because while this seems so obvious, when it comes to the average church’s mission statement, or the introductory paragraph or “about us” page on their website, they take a very similar approach to my BMW ad example.
Most churches that we’ve worked with explain what they do, or why they do it, in the exact same manner – there’s very little that sets them apart. By in large, the general approach includes “following Christ,” “creating disciples,” “delivering the gospel,” “teaching the word of God,” or something along those lines. Now before I go any further, please know that I’m not belittling these missions or saying that these words have no meaning – quite the opposite – however, just like the BMW example, aren’t they stating something we already know about churches in general? The average person understands that a church is following Christ, teaching the bible, and creating disciples. They may not understand what all that means, but they have an understanding of the mission of the church in general. This is all common knowledge.
It may sound trite, but we live in an extremely noisy world. In order to break through this noise and get people to take notice, you have to remove the generic from your story and lead with your differentiator. Sameness is forgotten in an instant.
- What is unique about your church?
- What are you doing to impact your surrounding community?
- How are you different from the church down the street?
These are difficult questions to answer, but vital for telling a compelling brand story.
The team at Bamboo developed a matrix for helping brands understand the type of language (educational vs. differential) they should use when telling their brand story. It helps to illustrate the point I’m making, and provides a framework for any industry to follow.
To use this matrix, first decide the level of awareness the general public has of your industry. For churches, this would be “high” since the public is well-aware of the church “industry.” Then, on the vertical axis, decide the level of understanding the general public has for your product or service. Again, for churches this would be “high.” You might argue that the general public has very little in-depth knowledge of the Christian faith, but for the sake of using this tool, we can all agree that the general public has a firm understanding of what exactly churches provide. When you follow the two axes, you arrive at the quadrant saying “just differentiate” in your messaging. In other words, because of the high level of awareness of your industry, and the high level of understanding of your product/service, you can leave out educational information from your messaging, and should instead focus solely on differentiation.
This may seem counter-intuitive, especially in the church context. It may even seem inappropriate to consider leaving out the baseline information about church. But remember my earlier point: the world is remarkably noisy. If you want people to take notice of what you’re doing and why it’s important, you have to deliver a message that’s memorable.
To provide additional context for this, let’s consider Uber, the popular on-demand vehicle service. Using this matrix, we would place Uber in the “high/high” quadrant, just like a church. We would urge them to “just differentiate” since the general public has a high level of awareness of the taxi industry, and a high level of understanding about their service. Let’s look at the language they use on their website:
The homepage leads with “Your ride, on demand.” Diving deeper into the site, we find “Uber is evolving the way the world moves. By seamlessly connecting riders to drivers through our app, we make cities more accessible, opening up more possibilities for riders and more business for drivers.”
There’s no talk about the definition of taxi-like services, or what this type of public transportation is. Instead, they go straight to their unique purpose and differentiator. This approach is not reserved for highly innovative companies. All companies that fall into the “high/high” quadrant of the matrix need to lead with differentiation. You see it with grocery stores, fashion companies, and cars, to name a few.
As you consider the way you speak and write about your church, consider this matrix and remember my BMW ad example. Answer the questions I posed about what makes your church unique, and then lead with those statements. You’ll find that doing so helps you create a deeper connection with your audience and provides clarity in our noisy, crowded world.
Every morning my day started the same way.