By Brian Allain
Yes, times they are a changin’… Several of our long-standing ways of communicating faith issues are, on average, declining – including newspapers, magazines, and disappointingly, Sunday morning worship services. How do we reach people with nourishment and learning for their faith journey?
The emergence of the Internet, with its many incredible self-authoring platforms, has become the choice of many consumers for their daily intake of news and learning. The formats that content may now take have expanded exponentially – YouTube videos, podcasts, blogs, Facebook posts, Twitter tweets, memes – the list goes on and on.
All of these new platforms have their own faults and limitations, just as did the communication platforms of old. One can choose to ignore them and thus be left in the dust, or one can choose to master them, and take advantage of their audience reach and impact. For me, the choice is an easy one.
But HOW, you ask? Well, there is good news and bad news.
One piece of good news is that your choice of options has greatly increased, and there is no single “right” answer. If you’re really good on camera, produce videos – it has never been easier or less expensive. If you have a “radio quality” voice and like doing interviews, perhaps podcasting is a great route. If you prefer the written word there are many avenues for that.
Another piece of good news is that for all of these communication channels, the most important ingredient for success is what you have to say. Some of your audience will prefer one media type over others, but at the end of the day what matters is the quality and richness of your thoughts, and how you convey them to help people. So whether you are creating a blog article or a video script or interview questions, they all require good writing! So sharpen those writing skills, and tweak them for the particular communication channels you choose to use.
The third piece of good news to share here is that the barriers to entry have essentially gone away. It costs nothing to post a video to YouTube; to make a post on Facebook; even to self-publish a book on Amazon! (Yes, once you have an edited manuscript file and a book cover file – and you might want to spend a little money to make sure those are exceptional – the actual cost of uploading them to Amazon and having your book orderable there is exactly $0!) No more gatekeepers!! You can reach your audience directly.
Ok Brian, so what about the bad news?
Well, the bad news is that EVERYONE is doing the same thing. Whether you are pushing detergent or pickup trucks or theology, you are all clamoring for your audience’s attention. So if you have important things to communicate, a very important factor now has become: how do you stand out above the crowd?
Here is the most telling quote I’ve heard since I’ve become involved in the Christian publishing industry; it came from the CEO of a well-known Christian publishing house: “15 years ago all I cared about was the quality of the writing. Now I don’t even look at the writing unless they have a platform.” By “platform” what he means is a following – a group of people who are attracted to and follow what you communicate.
So the game has changed dramatically. Now the table stakes are not only what you have to say (still the number one priority), but also your ability to stand out above the crowd and draw people to your message, using today’s tools and communication channels.
I teach a seminar called “The Business of Being a Spiritual Writer” (quick sales pitch): one of these seminars will take place on April 29 at Colonial Church in Edina, MN. This is a post-conference seminar, following the Writing for Your Life conference on April 27-28 at the same location (see below). Additional seminars are scheduled for other parts of the country too. In this seminar I share what I believe to be the three most important ways to address this challenge:
- Find your market niche (audience) – a relatively open space in the market, with adequate size, where you can provide a leap in value and become known
- Consistently and persistently create content to position yourself as the leader in that niche
- It is not about you; it is about how you can help people
The other piece of good news here is that doing this is not rocket science – it really more about perseverance, creativity, and above all, listening to where God leads you.
About the Author
Brian Allain leads Writing for Your Life, a resource center for spiritual writers, and provides marketing services for authors and companies through Who Are You Trying To Serve? His work includes the Publishing in Color conference series, which is intended to increase the number of books published by spiritual writers of color, who have been under-represented in terms of the number of books published. Brian also leads the team that produces Compassionate Christianity. Previously Brian served as Founding Director of the Frederick Buechner Center where he led the launch of Mr. Buechner’s online presence and established several new programs and strategic partnerships. Brian has developed and led spiritual writers conferences at Princeton Theological Seminary, Drew Theological Seminary, Western Theological Seminary, Belmont University, New Brunswick Seminary, and several churches. He led the self-publishing effort for the book Buechner 101: An Introduction to Frederick Buechner. All of this is a second career, coming after successful business and technology leadership in high-tech. Brian has an MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was designated a Palmer Scholar, their highest academic award.