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Publicity That Turns Heads

Make your children's ministry event hard to resist.

Poor attendance at your children's ministry event is rarely a reflection of the quality of the event; rather it's a reflection of the quality of your publicity for the event. Of course, the lack of repeat attendance at subsequent events could be telling you something about the quality of your events, but that's another article.

And this article is about publicity do's and don'ts. The children and families you're trying to reach receive hundreds of messages daily. How can your children's ministry event stand out?

No matter what you do in publicity, don't let it be an afterthought. In fact, as you're first planning your special event, make your publicity campaign part of the process also. Begin your publicity plan with deep prayer. And work as a team; you'll generate tons more ideas with a group of people than you would by yourself.

Then follow these seven publicity principles from experts who make their living in publicity and marketing.

1. Know who you are. "Never pretend to be something you're not. Every local church has a distinct personality and character, just as each person does," says Jeff White, image developer at Group Publishing, Inc. "If you're going to publicize yourself to the community, show your church's true identity -- its core values, its distinct voice, and its authentic personality."

To better understand your children's ministry's uniquenesses, answer these questions:

• What are three things your children's ministry does well? Of those things, what's the #1 distinguishing characteristic of your ministry? How is that thing reflected in the event you're publicizing?

• If your children's ministry were a person, who would it be -- and why? a clown? Mother Teresa? a cookie-baking grandma? Once you know your ministry's personality, how is that reflected in the event you're publicizing?

• If your children's ministry has only one message that it's trying to convey, what is it? How is that reflected in the event you're publicizing?

2. Know your audience.

"Just as you need to know yourself, you need to understand your community," says White. "Publicity is all about getting attention; people will ignore you if you don't know who they are. Target an audience. Who needs to hear your news?"

Create a target list that identifies who you're trying to reach with the event you're publicizing. For example, at Children's Ministry Magazine, we study the demographics and psychographics of you -- our reader. Basically, demographics tell us how many of you are male or female, if you're leaders or volunteers, where you live, what your responsibilities are, and more. Psychographics tell us what you care about, such as what makes you excited, passionate, angry, sad, fulfilled, and more. Understanding these things makes us better able to serve you. And we're always adding new discoveries to our lists.

Do the same with the target audience you're trying to reach. Create a target list by answering these basic questions:

• Who are you trying to reach with your event? (children, parents, families, unchurched people, or all of the above?)

• Where are these people? Where do they hang out, eat out, shop, go to school, play?

• When do these people need to hear about your event to fit it into their schedules? When is the best time for them to attend your event?

• What do these people care about? What do they need from your event? It's important to note here that there are real needs (relationship with Jesus) and felt needs (entertainment). Your target audience is most interested in knowing how you'll meet their felt needs.

• Why would these people want to come to your event? Understand the difference between features and benefits. A feature is a description of your event, such as a wild and wacky sports camp. Benefits of the sports camp are to learn new skills, meet new friends, or have fun. Benefits are what people are going to get out of the event. To answer the "why" question for your target audience, you must tell them what the benefits of attendance are -- not just what you're doing. And to get their attention, your benefits must be the answer to their felt needs.

3. Create a visual campaign. You know your target audience and you've identified the benefits of your event -- now it's time to attach the creative visuals to your campaign. What images, colors, and wording would speak to your audience, based on what you know about them?

You need a standard image for all of your promotional materials for your event. This involves your logo, fonts, colors, photos, and message. One of the biggest mistakes churches make in publicity is not standardizing these things for each promotional piece. Every method, medium, and mode within a campaign must look the same. For example, if you look at your campaign's posters, fliers, postcards, bulletin announcements, ads, banners, and anything else, you must be able to see that all these things fit the same event because they have the same look.

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