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4 Church Marketing Lessons from Christian Radio

I LOVE Christian radio.

I used to despise Christian music, not because I don't love our faith and sacred music, of course, but because it felt cheesy and dry to me when I was growing up.

Now, I can't be in a car for more than 30 seconds before turning it up.

There is something about this generation of Christian music that really unites my soul to God. I've always connected most to God in song - I think I'm able to be as distraction-free as I possibly can be when music is playing - and I just love the joy and positivity it brings to my life.

My particular Christian station is locally-run and just has a small town, Jesus-loving feel to it that makes it even better. Of course, it's not a Catholic-specific station (I have a feeling I'm part of a narrow minority of Catholics that listen to it, in fact), but I actually like that it's not Catholic-specific, because it helps to broaden my worldview a little bit when it comes to our faith and reminds me that we're all coming from the same source of love, even if we disagree on some issues or dogma.

As I was listening today, however, it hit me that we Catholic marketers can actually learn a thing or two from Christian radio operations.

1. Wording matters

My station is about to launch "Days of Joy" tomorrow - aka, not so joyful days when my commute will now be pleadings for money. But still, I'm intrigued by the words they use to promote this event and the fundraising aspects of it. They speak of giving thanks to God for their blessings at the station, have a level of giving that is simply prayers if you cannot afford to give, and say that the station is "listener-improved" instead of listener-funded. It's small things like that, but good copywriting can make all the difference when it comes to your marketing campaign. Nowhere in their ads does the station say that this is a fundraising event, yet you still know that it is. I've heard other larger-scale Christian and public stations offer Disney vacations to entice people to give to their fundraising efforts, but the only radio fundraising campaign I've ever given to is my local Christian station. I get nothing for it as a gimmick, but I am much more intrigued to offer some of my finances to an organization that values me versus one that is trying to bribe me. The same thing goes with your customers. Speak from their point of view, not yours. Tell your customers what they want to hear, not what you want them to know. You can do that through good copywriting.

2. Meet people where they are

Okay, from a religious standpoint, this phrase always bothers me, because I often hear it used as an excuse to accommodate people who don't want to put effort into their faith. I'm using it here, however, to mean that sometimes Catholic advertising has to go where we wouldn't necessarily be. Trying to advertise your parish to non-Catholics? Don't advertise in the Catholic newspaper or in your bulletin. Go where non-Catholics are - basically, anywhere but church. I don't know the conversion rate of Christian radio stations, but I'd assume that someone is much more likely to get intrigued by an upbeat song, only to realize it's Christian and keep listening, versus just randomly showing up in church when they aren't feeling called by religion. Christian radio is a brilliant evangelization tactic - grab people where they are (stuck in their cars on their commute), intrigue them with positivity, and then change their lives, propelling them to take the next step of faith.

3. Leverage testimonials

My Christian station does an amazing job of including testimonials in their cycle. Every 10 minutes or so, you hear a short snippet of a testimonial - "It's changed my life," "this station brings me closer to Jesus," "it's fun and positive," etc. - as a break between songs. There may be an example out there (and if so, I'd love to see it), but I have yet to find a Catholic church that utilizes testimonials in this way. Grab some of your most engaged parishioners and ask them if they'd be willing to share 1-2 sentences about why they love your parish. This is great material for your social media accounts, to highlight on your website, and to put in advertisements for your parish.

4. Advertise your church

As I mentioned, I listen to a LOT of Christian radio (my commute recently tripled, so I'm listening to even more now). A ton of local Christian churches partner with the radio station to air a quick 30-60 second ad for their church every hour or so. Never in all of my listening have I heard a Catholic church air an ad on this station. Again, phrasing becomes important here - don't just launch in with a bland ad about your location and Mass times - but rather utilize one of the testimonials we discussed above or highlight what sets your parish apart - young families, engaging preaching, pews with cushions on them - whatever it is that might draw someone in. You never know who may be listening and trying to find a new parish or denomination to try. (Want to try this? Contact me to get started.)

Happy listening!

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