Helping God out with his PR strategy
In an increasingly secular country, does God really need some help with his PR strategy and is there anything Christians can do? Norwich marketing expert Martin Kentish takes a look.
Before anyone gets hot under the collar as to the subject title, it would be good to mention two things. Firstly, I am in marketing and I am also a Christian. The second point is that most of the general public doesn’t know much about either.
As with any community of people, whether it is Christians, Nurses, Star Wars or Matrix fans people adopt a language that often isolates others from understanding what they are talking about. Often, the really great message that people are trying to convey gets lost in a language that only people ‘in the club’ can actually grasp.
Being a relatively new Christian I still have vivid misconceptions of what I thought Christianity was about. I am also acutely aware of what many people think marketing is. Both camps of people are often misunderstood by people outside that group.
So why should God be ‘marketed’? The answer is simple: God’s great but many people don’t know that! For those people to realize how great God is, we as Christians need to understand how to communicate that message more effectively. This is where marketing comes in.
Effective communication of any message requires an understanding of who is receiving that message. Talk of the blood of Christ for example to most non-Christians they will move away quite hastily and think you are rather weird. For many, even the word God carries with it a whole load of values that differ from person to person.
Even the basics cannot be assumed to understood by the audience. I can remember scratching my head about the concept of the father, the son and the Holy Spirit when I was told they are essentially the same thing. Then there’s Jesus himself. Ask most people and he’s someone that pops up around Christmas as a baby, probably didn’t really exist but had something to do with Easter Eggs.
It is both revealing and sad that many of these misconceptions are down to the way we as Christians ineffectively communicate our faith to those who don’t share it. Often, we may as well be speaking different languages!
So one of the first rules of marketing: know your customers. By doing so you can then form the message using a language that person is receptive too. Therefore, the message is more likely to be delivered successfully. So in a Christian context, what does this mean?
It means the magic of God can be communicated to people who are unreceptive to God. There shouldn’t be anything new here as the same principle is used throughout the bible.
A dear friend, Rebecca Kemp has long been a sounding board to explore Christianity before I knew anything about God. In fact, I knew more about the Force in Star Wars than I did about God. Yet Rebecca’s explanations (often involving household objects and fish) seemed to make it much clearer. Rebecca clearly had something magical in her faith and through her explanations made the concept of Christianity much clearer. The fewer references to God seemed to make the message clearer to my non-Christian mind at the time.
Boy George recalls a time when he went to Church and despite a wonderfully charismatic Vicar; the words of the sermon were to him “like reading Shakespeare to a hedgehog”. Another thing that Boy George noticed was the overall somber greyness of the experience when he really wanted was the church to be in glorious technicolor.
It is not unusual for people to consider the church boring, grey and irrelevant. It is not unusual for people to have an image of Christians as being a bit weird. Anyone who passionately believes in something that is so totally alien to another can easily be seen that way. This is the same as anyone explaining things in terms of Star Wars and ‘the force’ when the person listening hasn’t even seen the films.
Lastly, we are all God’s PR people.
Gandhi once said “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." Although rather unfair, what he was saying was that we Christ’s PR department, we could be doing a better job.
PR, like research, advertising, brand development and editorial like this are all aspects of marketing. So next time we talk to someone new about being a Christian, stop and think if they know what we are talking about.
After graduating at UEA in 1991, Martin (pictured above) started life as a business analyst and started his first company at 24. Now on his third start-up, Martin has learnt the importance of effective marketing by taking difficult new concepts to initially unreceptive audiences. Martin's services are now used by companies like Pizza Express, John Lewis, McDonalds and Archant. Martin also enjoys helping other people start up their own businesses. Martin now lives in Trowse with his son Peter.