[SPEAKER] Marketing the Gospel: Can you? Should you? #PremDac17 with @KelvinGolding @Nick_Myers and @KDADouglas

This was described as “Interactive panel discussion with four senior Christian marketers: Kelvin Golding, Nick Myers, Katrina Douglas & Bex Lewis.”

I’m not sure the session was recorded, although there were plenty of interesting points raised that I would love to revisit (e.g. Nick referring to discomfort describing Jesus as a ‘product’). The questions that I prepared responses for were:

What inspired you to work in marketing, and what doors/opportunities has God opened up to you as a result to share the gospel?

It was never my plan to become a digital marketer, or to teach it, as I’d always thought I’d be following a history pathway! I undertook a PhD on government wartime propaganda, which did address how the government sought to get the nation on board, and change people’s behaviour through posters. I undertook digital work largely for ££ after attending a Dreamweaver course, started building people websites, and undertook web accessibility/usability projects. Especially once I got past coding to content, I enjoy contemporary coms as much as historical comms – the opportunities were there, and I took them!

A lot of my work focuses around digital literacy, encouraging people to be a ‘consistent self’ online/offline, and that if God is an intrinsic part of our life, then we share our whole lives (with wisdom) via social networks. Think about how you engage in social media, and look at books such as Bryony’s Sharing Faith via Social Media.

What challenges or compromising situations have you experienced personally of working in marketing (or related area) and being a Christian.

In many ways, because I’ve been so open about my faith, and I don’t work as a digital marketers, but teach it, it’s not felt to be a huge problem, but I do know that some of the tactics that we have to teach, such as remarketing, black hat SEO, etc. which I find ethically problematic, can be challenging!

What do we mean by the term marketing and how does the general public view marketing?  What about hype, selling benefits (but hiding challenges/issues), and authenticity/truth (reality v perception)?

Marketing is something that I’ve associated with propaganda (unsurprising, considering my PhD!). Propaganda was largely seen as a politically neutral term until World War I, when the lies (such as ‘the hun’) that had been used were exposed. Now we see marketing as lies, relentless badgering, etc. and for a long time it’s been perceived negatively – and therefore something that shouldn’t be use to ‘market Jesus/faith’, etc. In the modern age remarketing means a product you’ve looked at once ends up following you around the internet!).

I would see marketing as being about trying to connect someone who needs (or maybe wants!) something, with an item/service/product that should be of interest. As with most of these things, it’s how it’s use – partly why I want more Christians in the industry (if a butterfly flaps its wings) – could change entire industry. *We teach ethical marketing in first year at MMU.

At the conference, Kelvin asked us for 3 words that we’d use to sum up marketing: mine was “message, communication, audience” in a cycle, whilst I think Katrina said ‘awareness, trust, action’ and Nick said ‘people, needs, profit’, whilst Kelvin brought in new CIM definitions that are being worked – a provision to meet needs: creating, community and exchange value. Tables were asked for their thinking, which included: 

  • needs-meeting, messaging, instant
  • selling, influence, relationships
  • promotion, influence, persuasion
  • persuasive, communicative, targeting

Is evangelism marketing? Are we all called to market the gospel? Is marketing a ‘tool-kit’ for evangelism (the reformation used the technology of the printing press.. today we use the latest technology to reach the unreached)?

This question goes around my head a lot. In terms of a message that ‘needs’ to reach people (even if they don’t know it), yes, but it’s about doing it with authenticity, intent, care for others (drawing on fruits of the spirit), rather than bible bashing! Take time to listen, be there, and live alongside online as well as offline (see Paul Keeble’s book Mission With re this offline). We should be where people are (with sensitivity), and that is now digital.

Those in the secular/business world often have more £/space to risk on tactics, and we can learn from them (and if we ever consider ourselves to be ‘competing’, it’s with other marketing, not other churches). It’s all about the purpose of the current campaign – listen, understand audience, etc. (fellow travellers if you like), not a battering ram.

What examples of good and bad marketing have you seen within the Church or from Christians/missionaries/evangelists spreading/sharing the gospel. How has ‘marketing of the gospel’ changed in the 21st Century compared to the 20th Century [considering messaging (style/cultural relevance) and medium (channels)].

Like all ‘industries’ there’s good and bad material. So look at Christian and secular examples for inspiration (especially if you’re both ‘in the same space’). Again, reiterating the need to ‘understand your audience’ (current and potential). Excellent group on Facebook where church comms share (lots from US where it’s a more standard thing, rather than a sole volunteer’). Best = make it ‘fit for purpose’ as I highlighted in my MMU job interview:

The Best Digital Marketing Campaign in the World? from Bex Lewis

Within that presentation I highlighted the #thisgirlcan where they demonstrated a clear understanding of their audience, having used research they changed their plans for the campaign from celebrities to more ‘real’ stories. Some, e.g. @ourcofe started as a small experiment, gained traction and then continued for 3 years – and even once it ‘took a break’, others set up a similar unofficial account! Online campaigns are more interactive, more relational, and more interative. Faith has always been about being alongside people rather than ‘shouting at them’, but also need to raise awareness with standard forms of marketing, and good quality websites, spaces for people to question, etc as many have no longer grown up with church/faith as a normal part of life. Like teaching: less lectures, more interaction, but many of the ‘small things’ much as they can add up, need the addition of some more formal campaigns (although top-down doesn’t always work if it doesn’t catch the imagination).

If marketing has a role, then how could churches use marketing to reach non-Christians and the younger generation more effectively within a today’s environment (taking into consideration ‘fake news’ and extremism)?  How can churches use marketing to communicate with their local community and share the good news?  Please give one tip or piece of advice on how Christians or churches could use marketing to help spread the gospel?

Be a part of the community, whichever community it is. If it’s a formal church account, look to engage with e.g. local businesses, RT their messages on Twitter, show the action that’s happening within your walls/behind your doors. Invite people to use your space (not saying for free!). Listen to the needs of the community and participate locally – whilst also recognising the global nature of digital.

What bible verse inspires you as a Christian in Marketing and why?