What can an airline video can teach church communication?
Mashable is often a wonderful place to find tidbits of insights for churches that we never could quite expect. Today, they highlighted a new Qantas safety video called “Feels Like Home.” The interesting part is that it not only shows us something about videos, but provides an “ah-ha” moment that can relate to every element of how we communicate in the church.
Now, a little background. I fly somewhere between 75,000 and 90,000 miles per year (mainly for work.) In general, safety videos bore me to tears. I can state the script verbatim while reading Game of Thrones and jamming to the latest NF album. (Meaning multi-tasking to an extreme.) It has become the background noise of getting on a flight that everyone ignores.
The latest trend in safety videos has been to try to make the humorous or engaging while showing the specific required safety elements. All of them take place on a place and include some other humorous elements like Delta’s “most Internet’y safety video.” Now, they have even become expected and part of the background noise on a plane and fades from our attention.
Now, take a look at Qantas’ “Feels Like Home” safety video:
Not only does it provide the basic run of the mill safety information, but it shows you the wonderful scenery of Australia, brings a small tear to your eye at the end and provides some motivation to hop on a plane to go see it (likely through Qantas).
There are a couple themes that we should note:
- It stays focused on the objective (highlighting important safety information) while doing it in an unexpected way.
- They understand their audience. They are talking to travelers. Some are Aussies that take pride in their home while others may be interested in going there some day.
- It is interesting because it shows us places we are interested in ourselves as well as almost tells “micro-stories” in the process.
- It feels very authentic and not gimmicky or cheesy.
- It has an emotional payoff at the end.
Now, you may feel that I may be over-analyzing a simple safety video and making things up. Watch it again and then compare it with the Delta video. Which one would you watch again?
Ah…I thought so.
The same is true for church communication. Whether it is from a pulpit to an announcement on YouTube, how you capture someone’s attention, hold their interest and achieve your objective is a tough thing to do. We are constantly bombarded with information. They pay attention to what matters most. We need to earn it.
So, what can we learn from the Qantas video?
- Get clear on the objective. What do you need to convey and what do you want people to do? Make it only a short, single and simple objective. For the Qantas video, it is simple. We are legally required to show specific safety elements to passengers prior to take off.
- Understand WHO you are talking to. Who is your audience and how do they feel at the moment you are communicating. What are their thoughts, concerns and cares? For flyers, some are anxious about flying. For others it is to go to new places and explore. For everyone, they just want to get home safely and rejoin their families.
- Get clear on WHY it is important and address it in the first 10 seconds. You have 10 seconds to get someone’s attention and keep it. They will evaluate whether they should continue to pay attention or not in that time. For the Qantas video, it is to keep you safe. Count how many references and inferences they make about this in the first 10 to 15 seconds of the video. (Hint: The use of sheep is not accidental.) People in your church and community will judge any communication in the first 10 seconds so make them count by getting clear on the WHY.
- Distill what you need to communicate to its essence. Think about what very specifically needs communicated and why. In the Qantas video, there are specific elements that must be shown: use of a seat belt, putting on an oxygen mask, and so on. Now, simplify that list to its essence of what the minimum that must be shown to succeed.
- Make an unexpected turn in how you communicate it. Whether you use humor, tell stories or just present your message in an interesting way, think about what would surprise, delight or engage you. For the Qantas video, they took the mandatory safety elements and placed them in an unexpected and beautiful content relevant to their viewers.
- Always be authentic. People hate feeling like they are being manipulated. It is especially important for churches to have an authentic voice in their communications. The Qantas video is delightful because it feels like you are meeting authentic people that represent the heart of Australia. It is not overdone or feels like they are hiding something. The church MUST take the same approach. Everyone has stories of churches that use guilt, pressure and manipulation to get people to do something. It may be effective in the short-term but it always fails in the end.
- Be clear on what you want them to do next. Don’t make people guess what to do after watching the video. Make a single statement of the next step. The shorter, the better. If they have to guess, you failed. For the Qantas video, it is simple. Sit back, enjoy the flight and we will take care of you. For a church, it could be “sign up for a class” or “volunteer for the next food drive.” The more you are asking of someone, the more effective your communication needs to be in engaging them, convincing them on why and giving them a simple, one step action to take immediately.
- Review the communication and ask “Did we reward their attention.” It is called “paying attention” because there is a cost. People get very upset if you wasted it. It needs to be relevant to your audience, convey a meaningful message and have a clear next step to have a chance. Now ask the questions, “Am I happy I watched/read this?” and “Would I share this with my friend now?” If it does not pass those two tests, rework it.
Now, does every church announcement need to go through this filter? Nope, but the things that are most important do need to pass these eight steps. I would argue that it is just as important for a sermon as well as a video conveying the mission of the church.
Churches must be clear in what they communicate. Otherwise the noise of the world will drown them out.