A new breed of preacher is reaching a global audience of millions, and the measurable impact of their influence on society cannot be dismissed. These preachers seek larger membership for their communities, and they invest as much in the care of their current members as they do in reaching out to new members. Their word-smithed messages of ethics, support and encouragement are teaching their communities how to make a better world together. And their delivery is aimed at developing a self-sustaining network of do-gooders and good-choosers with mutual financial support. Sound a lot like church? It could be.
But... the preachers I've described are marketing teams that practice 'civil branding.' Simply put, civil branding seeks to promote a brand while also influencing societal behavior, and ultimately seeks to prompt people to make progress towards a better society. All the while encouraging engagement with the brand. Civil branding seeks to know its audience, and invests time and resources to nurture that relationship.
Applying a civil branding strategy to an ecclesial community will revolutionize the ways and means that a church or parish proclaims itself to the world. Rather than dutifully listing service hours and preschool sessions, ecclesial branding would reveal the values of its membership, inform all who read/view the communication and invite people to join in. Borrowing from its civic predecessor, ecclesial branding's goals would be to inform, engage, incite, and call to act for a better society.
Ready to get started? First, know your membership and your value-propositions. This can be done through various listening and forum processes. Then, discern new visual representations of your identity, likely with the help of a professional, perhaps even an existing member of your community who works in the marketing or advertising business. You will want to select art and image that communicate who you are and where you stand in the world in such a way that anyone who comes through your door will see this reflected in everything you do. This form of visual communication will support your current membership while inviting new members in to a community that they already know something about based upon what they have seen.
How will I know if it is working? For a parish church, look for increases in 'engagement with your brand.' These could be measured in Sunday morning attendance, financial stewardship for operating expenses, volunteerism for parish programming, and selective stewardship for parish-sponsored areas of personal concern. They could also be measured by attendance from the surrounding community, outreach to civic support centers, and service to local governing agencies. There are also benefits to civil branding that are not so easily measured - stronger personal and community identity, shared vision, a sense of belonging and a sense of well-being.
Why does the church need ecclesial branding now? I think it comes down to different ways of seeing the world, a willingness to look through the eyes of another, and a commitment to honest and open communication. After all, some people will look at The Episcopal Church (TEC) and see ____. Others will look at TEC and see ____. And still others will look and see _____.
"O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds." Psalm 71:17