Feeding the campfire…developing a content strategy for your marketing efforts.

C.C. Chapman and Ann Handley have developed a wonderful metaphor about content in their book, Content Rules (which I highly recommend!)  Think about a campfire.  What do you think about?  We remember the times around the fire with friends, telling stories and staying warm.  It creates a sense of “instant community” and camaraderie.

There are five steps to build a campfire according to Content Rules:

  1. Start with small, easily ignitable branches and twigs and pile them in the middle of where you want your fire.
  2. Surround the tinder with bigger sticks in a tepee fashion, allowing plenty of air to circulate (you need both air and fuel to build a good fire).
  3. Light a fire from multiple sides and allow it to grow slowly.
  4. Once a fire is going, add larger logs to provide continual warmth without needing much tending.
  5. Adjust the logs to keep it interesting; add fuel as needed.

Building a campfire is not an accident.  It takes care and patience to build a lasting fire.  The same is true to create a content strategy that will build a center of warmth and instant community for your church and those you are trying to reach.

Building a content strategy for your church.

Before working on getting the word out about your church or organization, it is really important to know what you are about and why you want to engage in conversation to your audience.  In other words, what behaviors, thoughts and actions that you hope to drive.  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.

Find Fuel for the Fire – Brainstorm what events you want to build content around.  Make a list of different topics that you would like to communicate and then build a calendar of what you will write about.  One approach you can take would be to start with your church calendar.  Look at all of the major events, sermon series or community events and determine how you could surround those events with content.

Using these topics, conduct a “content asset audit.”  You may have a lot of the content already available.  Whether it is an old newsletter article, a written sermon or a pamphlet your church created, you will find lots of content that you can reuse as part of your digital content strategy.

Plan how to build a lasting fire – Mapping your content.  Once content assets are cataloged, map the assets into a sequential lead nurturing ‘curriculum,’ i.e., moving prospects through a series of content-focused engagements – each of which signify a higher degree of complexity/value and a closer proximity to the behavior you want.

As an example, Elberon UMC, an urban church in Cincinnati, OH, holds an annual school fair to give away free school supplies to its community every August.

Target

Donors

Attendees

Goal Entice donors to give more school supplies and volunteer to support the event. Inform parents about the event and why it is important.
Pre-Event
  • Blog article about the link between poverty and education.
  • Blog article on why lower income children do not have the school supplies they need to succeed.
  • Call to action for individuals to donate school supplies.
  • Update on donations
  • Story about a child who received supplies last year.
  • PR release to news agency
  • Blog article about the importance of kids having the supplies they need to succeed in school.
  • Meetup.com and Upcoming.org calendar announcements

During the Event
  • Live feed from the event
  •  News coverage or radio remote
Post Event
  • Report on the event
  • Flickr photos showing highlights of the event.
  • Video highlights of the event
  • Flickr photos with Bengal and Reds mascot that they can download.
  • Video showing highlights of the event.
  • Follow-up about tutoring program on Tuesday nights.

Using this outline, create a 1 to 2 page document outlining the event and why it is important.  Now use it as the key reference to create the rest of the content outlined in the plan.

Turning Trees into Firewood – Produce and atomize your content.  Start by writing the basic piece of content.  This is usually a blog post or other written piece of communication.  Keep it conversational and focused on what really matters.  Remember, you have about 3-5 seconds to catch your reader’s attention, and about 12 seconds of writing to keep it.   Check out Dan and Chip Heath’s book and blog called “Made to Stick” for great tips on writing effective content.

Once you have finished, you probably have a beautiful, well written 1 to 2 page document covering the topic.  Now, atomize itSHIFT communications created this concept on their blog “PR-Squared” to help improve readability and reuse.  You can post the full document as a PDF, and post each section as several blog articles.  Create a podcast explaining and expanding on your thoughts. Break you large document in a number of smaller, bit size chunks and spread it across all of your “outposts” (otherwise known as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and so on.)

Keep adding fuel – Build a content calendar including owners & deadlines.  Sequence content in a logical way both leading up to the event and afterward.  Build an integrated content calendar, assign who will be responsible for producing it, and create deadline on when it will need to be completed.  Make sure that you have included 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 and start telling stories!

People community through stories.  We rarely remember facts and figures, but we can all remember a funny story or one that touched our heart.  We have an opportunity to tell the story of how God created us, constantly sought after us when we fell and how he sent his Son as a perfect act of love to reconcile us to Him.

Our churches should be extensions of that story into our communities.  We are called to share it.  We just need to be willing to get started in building our first  campfire.

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