By Eric Seiberling
C.C. Chapman and Ann Handley, in their book Content Rules, compare content to a campfire. It attracts people, provides warmth, is a place where people tell their stories and often creates a sense of "instant community" and camaraderie.
Just as it takes care and patience to build a lasting fire, the same is true of creating a content strategy that will build a center of warmth and instant community for your church and those you are trying to reach. It requires thoughtful planning and preparation to attract people from your community to you and then to engage them in conversation to create relationships.
Understand your community.
Start by understanding your community, the specific calling of your church and why people would want to engage you in conversation. For some, it may be to create a conversation about the struggles of poverty. For others, it could be helping families instill values in their children. Whatever it is, it needs to be a passion for you and important to the community you are trying to reach.
Brainstorm topics and events around which to build content.
List topics about which you would like to communicate and build a calendar of topics. First, look at both church and community event calendars. Next, determine how you could surround selected events with content. If your overall content marketing strategy is to strengthen the position of your church in the community, the content cannot all be internal promotion. For example, your church may hold a financial seminar over four weeks in January every year. Use that event as an anchor to create content that provides practical financial advice that people can use whether they show up to your seminar or not. Plug the seminar at the end and trust that your quality content will draw people. It's like planting seeds. The people who don't show will remember your church. Your new financial resources will outlast the seminar, and the seeds will continue to grow.
Looking at your key event, create a single piece of remarkable content.
This needs to be a piece of content that people would find interesting, relevant and helpful in their everyday lives. One example could be a "budgeting guide" for people to build their New Year's budget. Start by looking at the content your church has already created. Whether it is an old newsletter article, a written sermon or a pamphlet, you will find content you can combine into a single piece that people in your community would find helpful. Turn it into a beautiful, well-written one-to two-page document covering the topic.
Break your remarkable single piece of content into "chunks."
Now think about ways to turn your large piece of content into interesting, short pieces that are easier to read and share. Post the full document on your website and summarize each section as blog articles. Create a podcast or Slideshare to talk about a particular topic, expanding on your thoughts. Create several infographics that represent key ideas that can be posted on Blogs, websites and other social media sites. Keep the smaller chunks of content conversational and focused on what really matters. You have about three to five seconds to catch your reader's attention and about 12 seconds to keep it.
Sequence your content and place it on various social media sites.
Look at your "chunks" of content and sequence them in a way that helps people understand the problem you are trying to solve, recommends how to solve it, gives examples of what your church is doing and provides specific "calls to action" on how others can respond.
Build a content calendar including owners and deadlines.
Create an integrated content calendar, assign who will produce it and create deadlines. Make sure to include time for writing, editing and molding the content to fit into the different outposts (other social networks and social media platforms connected back to your website).
Build your fire, start telling stories!
People build community through stories. You may rarely remember facts and figures, but everyone can recall a funny story or one that touched the heart. Use the art of storytelling to show how God created each of us, constantly sought after us when we fell and sent Jesus as a perfect act of love to reconcile us to God.
Your churches should be extensions of that story into our communities. Start sharing your campfire stories today!