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How to Write to a Catholic Audience

"How do you do, fellow kids?" That's what it sounds like when we are talking AT our target audience instead of to them.

It's really easy to fall into the trap that because we know our ministry's subject matter, everyone else does too, but chances are, the "average Joe" doesn't.

Case in point: Which is more familiar to you?

  1. "Brand positioning" (the official marketing term), or

  2. "What makes your ministry unique"

Most likely the second, and so when we're marketing our ability to help with this, we'd say something like "We help highlight what makes your ministry unique" versus "We help with brand positioning."

Another example: if we're trying to reach new converts, we might avoid Catholic "catchphrases" like TLM or domestic Church that would be unfamiliar.

Getting to Know You

So how do we know how our target audience would express their needs?

  • Join Facebook groups or follow social accounts that your audience would and go through the comments. Keep a notes folder on your phone or computer with words or phrases that come up a lot and use those in your marketing.

  • Ask them! Do a survey, hold a focus group, call up your best friend and just have a conversation about what you do. Listen again to the words and phrases they repeat often - chances are, it will also define their pain point.

  • Write out marketing copy. Underline any word that would need defining to anyone younger than 14 and replace them with more familiar terms.

  • Talk conversationally! The best marketing content is one that feels like a familiar conversation with a friend, not something you once read out of a textbook.

Market to Feelings

The greatest piece of marketing wisdom we can ever impart on you? Market to feelings, not to wallets.

(And yes, this still applies even if you're not asking for money.)

In fancy marketing terms, this is called a pain point, but it essentially means that instead of being in the business of "selling," you're in the business of solving problems. You identify a problem, big or small, your audience is experiencing, and draw from that to show how your product or service fixes that pain point.

The classic marketing example is that of a mattress. Unless you own a mattress store, chances are you're not that passionate about them.

You know what everyone is passionate about? A good night's sleep.

And so the adage goes, don't sell a mattress, sell a good night's sleep. Focus on the problem that needs solving, not the product you have that will fix it.

What this looks like in actuality is a mattress commercial focusing on the before and after good night's sleep of using their mattress versus the technical aspects of how it's made.

Here's a Catholic example: don't sell Adoration, sell the peace of Christ.

Telling someone to come sit in silence for an hour in front of what looks like a piece of bread isn't exactly the best selling point (and just saying Eucharistic Adoration doesn't meet the need either, as we learned from our technical language conversation above).

So instead, we focus on the effects of Adoration - and connect that to people's need to find peace in a crazy, hectic, and out of control world.

So your assignment for today? Pick one piece of marketing copy that sells what you do, and flip it to be feelings-based instead.

Ask Questions and Make Assumptions

Okay, so how do we take the language of our target audience and tap into their feelings? By asking questions and making assumptions.

So why go to all of this trouble reframing your content? Because this other-centric marketing elicits the feeling of being seen and known.

In other words? You're trying to spark the reaction of "wait, they're talking to me!"

These are our two favorite hacks for writing other-centric copy:

1. Ask Questions

Let's say you're redoing copy on your website's home page to reflect the new language and feelings you've identified from your audience. A really simple way to integrate this is to ask questions that allow your audience to self-identify as being the person you're talking to.

How might this look?

  • Do you feel like x, y, and z?

  • Are you struggling to ____?

  • When was the last time you experienced ____?

Tweak the wording to match your style, plug in the feelings associated with your ministry, and then follow that up with how attending your event, buying your product, booking your service, etc. will solve that need.

2. Make Assumptions

If questions aren't really your style or you want to mix it up, switch your questions into assumptions.

So instead of asking "Do you feel like ____," try something like this: "Let me guess. You feel like ____. It's a struggle to ____. Frankly, you're overwhelmed by _____ and it feels like ____."

So at the end of the day, it's really about simply integrating understanding into your marketing, starting with empathy and trying to solve a need (which is why 99% of you are probably doing what you're doing in Catholic ministry - it's just about communicating that!).

P.S. We're primarily referencing written copy here, but this also translates into spoken words and even graphics and images and what they're conveying! It's all about conversation and understanding.

Market Like Jesus

If your brain is anything like ours, you need real life examples, and who better to look to than the Reason we do all of this anyway?

1. The Beatitudes

Blessed are the those who mourn...who are peacemakers...who are persecuted. Instead of saying "Hey, don't create division or discriminate" because that would make them automatically tune out His message, He instead invites them into the teaching, allowing them to see themselves - and then follows that up with how He will reward them for that toil.

2. The Woman at the Well

Again, Jesus doesn't start with statements that will put people off. Imagine if He started this conversation with this woman's past - like everyone else probably did. He probably would have been cut off quickly.

Where does He start instead? With a conversation about water. He uses the water in front of them to slowly poke at why she's there at that hour (because she was an outcast) and her desire to not have to continue to draw water (and be on public display) to inch closer and closer to what He wants to talk about - her soul. We have to do the same: earn their trust and build a relationship before we try to sell, solve, or evangelize.

3. Parables

Okay, so this might seem like a time He WASN'T talking to His target audience well - after all, how many times did the disciples have to come to Him after and ask for clarification? But see, many of the parables weren't necessarily aimed at the immediate audience - they were aimed at making the religious leaders look at themselves a bit more closely. They would have understood the message, and the goal was to make them uncomfortable with their sin.

Bottom line? Be like Jesus (a good rule for marketing and life!) and speak relationally. It's only then that you can truly serve your audience.

Need Help?

Need more help with writing copy that speaks to your audience? Reach out - we'd love to work with you on writing that speaks to a Catholic audience for your website, emails, and more.

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