Lying to ourselves in Social Media

I was again amused by the publicity campaigns of BeautifulPeople.com who has made news recently for kicking out some 30,000 ‘members’ of their social media site. Last time they did that they claimed it was because people “let themselves go” after the Christmas/New Year holidays and the ‘beautiful people’ were complaining that the site had let their standards slip. This time they are claiming some virus/hack that no one has heard of has added these un-savory people (publicity stunt).

Truth is, we all lie.. and we all participate in lying at some level in our social media presence.

Gavin Richardson

My Profile Lie

Case in point for me. The photo I use for all my profiles is me and it isn’t altered in any fashion (except cropping) but it is a photo that captures me in a not so fat or sloven look that many others can do. Not to mention I’m reading a book in that photo.. I don’t think I ever actually finished that book & most of the time I read off the Kindle or Kindle iPad app these days, which doesn’t look nearly as studious. Truth is, that pic is something I wish I was a little more of.

I am that at times, but most times I am a bit to heavy that if I think about it I feel less than my best. Reading & being all studious smart happens when I actually have enough energy left at the end of the day of work and parenting to do without falling asleep.. which is rare these days.

I wonder what the world of social media would look like if we all spent more time, maybe not lying, but telling a full truth about ourselves. Would social media become more of a therapy than a social setting.. Do we change the name to ‘Therapy Media?’

Maybe, we really do not want to get so involved in each others lives to handle a ‘therapy media’ culture?.. I suppose if we want that we can pick up the phone and actually talk to someone about what’s actually going on their lives..

Lap Bands for Teenagers & our Failure

I am really troubled this morning to be reading this article in the LA Times about a leading producer of lap-bands targeting overweight teenagers.

The Irvine company has asked the Food and Drug Administration to approve Lap-Band surgeries for adolescents as young as 14, and is conducting clinical trials on teenage patients, said Cathy Taylor, a company spokeswoman.

Allergan says the device — a silicon ring fitted around the stomach to reduce food intake — has proved a safe and effective way for obese adults to shed pounds. With an estimated one-third of U.S. children now overweight, the benefits should be extended to teenagers, Taylor said.

“We identified a significant need with this patient population in terms of the increasing rate of obesity in younger populations,” Taylor said. “Obesity, if left untreated, correlates to life-threatening diseases.”

Disclosure: I’m not the best (or maybe I am) about talking about weight and health. I’m probably at close to my heaviest weight in my life & I take flack for being clinically ‘obese.’ However, it is not a problem with my body in my opinion. I eat too much and exercise very little. It’s a Gavin psyche issue & it is Gavin who will handle this.

I am trouble by our need in a culture to not take accountability for our selves. Obesity has its population that is predisposed to the illness & the illnesses and psychological affects that come along with it. However, that population is not so large that a medical surgery product company would be angling to market to a niche of that population. We have an alarming issue & a slippery slope we are apparently going to participate in.

Should something like this happen (which teens can already get the surgery if parents sign off on it, the company is just wanting to start marketing to teens) teens will get marketing messages tapping into their fears of being alone or ridiculed (which might be real already). Now they have a medical company telling them they have a magic solution that takes little change to their life except an outpatient day of surgery. It’s an easy fix… That would be the marketing message.

True change in a life, whether it be weight, spiritual growth, education, deeper relationships, health, family enrichment, etc. take intentionality effort & sacrifice. Marketing messages cannot capture that…

As a pastor with teenagers I’ve struggled with the health & eating portion that comes along with ministry programs. Where are we going to stop to eat on the way to the ski slope or missions camp? McDonald’s Wendy’s?… What do we do for our youth swim party/lock-in/Wednesday night worship/visiting group? Cheap Pizza Pizza Pizza…

So here are some quick thoughts in planning for your teenagers if you care for their health:

  • Find low calorie meals that volunteers can multiply easily enough for the number of people in your group
  • Have a parent volunteer (might even have a nutritionist in your congregation) who coaches you & volunteers on nutrition and food vs food product)
  • Stop serving cokes/sodas/pop
  • Pack lunches for the road and stop at rest stops
  • Throw in some frisbees & footballs, maybe a badminton set to have active games while hanging out, that’d be a cool scene at a rest stop
  • Stop looking at travel as a “gotta get there” thing and more of a pilgrimage experience

In other fun listening, check out Spurlock’s latest product placement documentary.

Any other ideas on helping teenagers with food, health and self concept in ministry?

Foursquare your Church

The other week I was sitting down with my Hendersonville Geeks and Bill showed me this Foursquare special for Old Hickory United Methodist Church. I’m really familiar with OHUMC as one of my best buds (Jay Voorhees) has recently become the pastor there & I’ve lived in the neighborhood for a number of years now. For a small church they’ve done a few marketing things that have caught my attention in the “I’m surprised they did that” realm. So I give them props for trying stuff.

Jay is tech savy and so I’m sure this one is all him. I find it a rather creative way to let people in the area know that you are there & the sacred hope of coming into the doors.

Think about the buildings you pass by in a daily commute or driving around. You probably don’t. We go to that destination place and then off again. Rarely noticing what is around that destination spot. Or even in this instance, people don’t go near Old Hickory (basically because of the lake system takes out a direct drive, which would be a mile or two) become aware of a small church that is trying something out.

NOTE: Foursquare, for those that do not know is a GPS/Location based application for mobile phones that has people “check-in” at places & will give points & badges for certain achievements.

What I like out Jay’s approach here:

  1. Offering a free meal is easy for them, they’ve already incurred the cost many times by cooking for the rest of the group. However, for many of the younger families in our area that could be a cool offer.
  2. It isn’t too slick. He isn’t calling it anything he’s not. They are “newbies” to either foursquare or the church. It works.
  3. The big allure of the check-in is that it gets broadcast throughout that persons network, which, is probably very defined and those people would probably enjoy taking advantage of that same experience.

Found this other blog posting on a church’s potential use of a location based service. I like the idea of creating a mayorship competition.. (If you want to get into a theological or doctrinal argument over a “mayor” of the church go somewhere else, it’s a game people!) &:~)

Creating a special for your church is easy. Foursquare wants you to do this as this is a huge plus for them and their application. If you want to create some badges for people to work towards, start the process by sending in this form.

branding your YOUth ministry

I wrote up this posting for YouthWorker Movement & encapsulates some of my ‘short session’ from Perkins School of Youth Ministry last month.

Last month I did a session at Perkins School of Youth Ministry on “branding” ones youth ministry (the image above is my whiteboard, minus that “revitalize church” not sure what that’s from).

Brand, is a very ambiguous term. In many ways its best to understand what some brands are. Mac/Apple, has the bitten apple logo. McDonald’s has the big yellow ‘M.’ Nike has it swoosh. Beyond just a logo though, Coca-Cola has a very distinct and branded glass bottle, so much so that it was designed to be recognized even when broken (true story). ‘Your’ brand is more than just a logo. So how does one identify and move forward developing a brand in the church environment?

Well, this is how I see it happening.

Acts 2: “..because each one heard their own language being spoken..”

I have this idea of Pentecost being about the enabling of effective communicating to the masses through the power of the Holy Spirit. Read the story, that scene was a mess before the Holy Spirit came to inspire & enable the leaders. Today it is a present reality that we speak and understand in brands, that combination of who we are along with our sensory identifiers. My opinion is that we need the Holy Spirit in finding out who we are and what we are about to us and others to be able to accurately and adequately communicate to others about our ministries.

Matthew 16: “When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

I love this scripture, in part because I feel this is all about identity and many of us, our teens especially, struggle with identity. Christ outlines those cores questions we need to answer for ourselves & our ministries. Ourselves? Yes, as I’ve highlighted in Christ’s responses, he renames Simon to Peter, which translated is “rock” and so “on this ‘rock’ I will build my church” telling me that we are integral to the identity and ‘brand’ of our ministries. Are our ministries all about us, heck no! but they are very much a part of us and many times take over traits and gifts unique to us. That isn’t a bad thing. God gifts us & enables us for ministry. We bring that to whatever ministry we enter and lead.

So, how do we go about answering the questions?

I have a process of discernment that I feel has value to help us open to the Holy Spirit and find the answers. Only after this can we move forward in doing the ‘things’ of branding our ministries.

Discernment

Prayer - Emptying Prayer, get rid of all the junk in you head about what could be, what the Baptists are doing, or what the big mega church in your area is doing. Certainly get rid of those advertising ideas from some national chain that you think are cool. (Do this first as individual, then as a group)

Prayer – Return to prayer after you are rid of all that junk and ask God to give you clarity as to “who you are?” and “what do others say you are?”  (Do this first as individual, then as a group)

Reading - Because God doesn’t give answers immediately (that’s my experience, maybe it isn’t yours). Spend time in reading, read scripture (Searching the Scriptures), art books, local newspapers and magazines, read poetry and creative writing, etc.  Stay away from church growth books are my suggestion, they don’t translate often and confuse, plus you need to go back to that emptying prayer exercise.

Conversations - Begin conversations with a myriad of people. Those involved in your ministry and those outside your ministry. Ask those people the two questions, be okay with whatever responses you get.

Visualize – At some point around here you will see some themes emerging. Start to jot them down and then organize the themes of your ministries identity. What do you want to change? What do you want to emphasize? What do you want to be about? Vizual how you might want to get there.

This becomes then a planning process where you want to go back to many of those people you had conversations with. As you present you leadings from the Spirit you will find that others will understand as well and jump in to help making this new branding a reality.

At this point you might have some specific planning options to help along the way.

  • What is your name? I can’t example that one for you
  • What is our visual identifier, ie. logo? How to create it?
  • What is our language?
  • What do we do? Mission, Discipleship, Worship?.. I’m a fan of identifying three key words, forget mission statements, they are useless and communicate nothing to teenagers. imho
  • What do we do best? Discipleship?..
  • How are we going to do this? Detailed plan for reshaping or building your culture
  • What do we want others to know us by? How to share that; email, outreach projects, community events, etc?
  • How to keep doing that? I call it the, rinse and repeat

In our workshop session on of the participants brought up how Gatorade was re-branding itself. Which brought up for me an important example of jumping this process and mis-branding your ministry. Note: I have this information on good knowledge because my brother-in-law is a national sales member to the Gatorade team. A few years back Gatorade heard that Tiger Woods was entertaining a new brand of Powerade line with his name on it. Someone in Gatorade felt, and enough others agreed, that they couldn’t allow this to happen so they rushed to jump over Powerade and sign Tiger to a huge endorsement and created a whole line of favorite Tiger flavors of Gatorade. Well, the whole line was a super flop (financially speaking) and when Tiger got into trouble it was a fortunate circumstance to break from that failed venture. Gatorade got away from “who they are” and more into who they wanted to beat. It failed for them & will fail for any of us who go that route in ministry as well.

Do you have any questions about branding a ministry?

How Good is Your Church Facebook Presence?

I get to call some really creative people all over the world my friend. I’m so blessed that way, but not so far away is a super group of creative types that I hang out with as our Hendersonville Geekbreakfast. Once a month we all meet up for breakfast, talk some shop, make fun of somebody and plan collaborative projects. The in between times we’ve become a real solid group of friends. One of my ‘geek’ friends is Jason Elkins. Jason has started doing some really cool things with his media company, Transparent {social} Media, on facebook. They are helping all kinds of businesses, and churches, leverage facebook for to reach their clients in an open and relational marketing.

I asked Jason a couple of questions

1. Where do you see most churches going wrong on facebook?
I see most churches going wrong with Facebook in the way they view communication. It’s not a one way street:

1) They are utilizing Facebook like a traditional media outlet. They think of it like a flier or pamphlet with information that they are getting in front of their congregation. In fact, it’s a platform for communication/interaction and engagement. For example, instead of posting your favorite bible verse, perhaps you should ask your Facebook audience what their favorite verse would be.

Instead of saying “we had a great time at the youth event”, you are better off asking “what did you think of our youth event?” or “How could we make it better next time” or “Tell us what you loved about the youth event”.

“Praying for our congregation” is good. “Click ‘Like’ if you need a prayer today or send us your prayer requests” is better.

“Listening to Skillet” is good… “What is playing on your iPod right now” is better.

Announcing service times/cancellations/upcoming events is a great use, but engage with your audience.

2)Two things you can do with Facebook now that are new/unique:

1) Incorporating a podcast of your sermons online is a revolutionary feature in Facebook. Using a custom tab combined with Soundcloud (a hosting application) you can serve up your sermons on Facebook and people can share them with their audience. Because of the way we are developing these pages, an administrator can upload the latest sermons to Soundcloud and they will appear on a custom tab.

2) Other things a church could do on a custom tab would be to incorporate an introductory or testimonial video, show pages of a sermon or a book, take donations for a mission/tithe and incorporate a form to build an e-mail list. The Lifebook page is a good example of utilizing all of these features

thanks Jason for taking the time!

Here is part of an example of Transparent {social} Media’s latest work on a church here in middle Tennessee.

They set up the standard fan page, but tweaked out the welcome to have a matching graphic layout to the ‘profile pic.’ It doesn’t show up, but my cursor is floating over the sermons active link page. I think that is pretty cool.. but it gets better..

At the bottom it has email / contact info capture capabilities. You don’t have to wait for the person to show up in the pew to fill out this form. They can do that over facebook. Not to mention, your parishioners can donate through this facebook portal. Pretty darn cool. They have the rest of the page tweaked out with those things that are pertinent to a church body.

So how are you using facebook for your church? You might want to contact my friend Jason and see what all is out there.

Branding like the church makes Sense

This posting originally written for Sticky Sheep

I’ve been reading one of my latest impulse book buys. “Brand Sense: Sensory Secrets Behind the Stuff We Buy” by Martin Lindstrom. It’s basically a book talking about the importance of integrating the many senses into a branding of a company/product etc. This interested me because I know that for many people the church has the potential for a rich environment. In setting up and leading many contemplative worship experiences over the past decade I have had many responses of “this reminds me so much of…” where a participant has those subconscious triggers, nostalgia kicks in, and the overall experience is elevated. They then ask a next question “how can we do this again?”

So it wasn’t so much a surprise, but a great affirmation to read up some of Martin’s thoughts on branding sense & the church.

“Without taking comparisons to religion to far, we can see the relevance of spirituality for certain aspects of sensory branding. The most memorable, savored brands of the future will be those that not only anchor themselves in tradition, but also adopt religious characteristics as they simultaneously make full, integrated use of sensory branding-period. Each fully integrated brand will boast its own identity, one that’s expressed in its every message, shape, symbol, ritual, and tradition-just as sports teams and religion do.”

Lindstrom goes on from there & weaves through the book the idea of religious integration. I don’t think he’s actually attuned to life in the church and the traditions to know what are the things that make ‘sense’ (or he is totally avoiding the religion comparisons to stay away from a potential hot button topic).

I visited with one of the new pastors in town a month or so back. He showed me the sanctuary at his brand new built church (renovated movie theater) and he called it the “main experience room.” I thought to myself, “experience?” What experience do you have here? Sure as a church you hope to have an experience where people engage God in some manner. However, what is special about the environments of the church that help people ‘sense’ God and fully engage their experience? How can the church go about emphasizing some of these branded sensory experiences? Certainly Len Sweet has been preaching his E.P.I.C. model for years which can flow into this, but for those who haven’t been listening to Len my short list.

  • Smell? Incense, candles, hymnals, wood floors, etc.
  • Visuals? Banners, cross, projections, cleanliness, used, robes, candles, architecture, etc.
  • Touch? hugs, passing peace, fellowship, prayer book, hymnals, pews, etc.
  • Taste? Communion/Eucharist etc.
  • Hear? Music, sermon, screaming baby, sneezing, etc.

As the workplace goes, what is the end result you wish for consumers to experience? What are the sensory items ingrained already in the tradition of your work? How can you expand those? What are new ways to take the sensory route to branding your end experience?

Have an outflow to sustain Life : Lesson from a Dead Sea

This post originally written for Sticky Sheep

The Dead Sea is one of those iconic sites to check out with a visit to the Holy Land. It isn’t dead in the aspect that it does have some benefits (translation = products) that it is able to provide for its surrounding community. However, in all aspects it is a void of life and production of vitality for the range it covers. What makes this sea, so dead?..

It goes no where.

You may know that the famed Jordan River flows into the Dead Sea & there are some small waters that filter into the sea. But remarkably there isn’t an outflow of water.

Whether you are a business or a church, non-profit or fortune 500. There needs to be outflow from your entity. I am not just talking about an outflow of product, but all the energies and collection of talent in a company need to be pouring out into the community. So I ask, what are you doing that flows out into the community? What nutrients, positive energy, inner life, etc does your company/church give to build the greater good? Or, do you just hold everything within the walls for just the company/church?

As I mentioned, this isn’t an outflow of product, but allowing the passions & personalities of the company/church to move outward, beyond the current boundaries, to do and be a part of things that are not for a bottom line. Flowing outward to be a service to the surrounding community. It is in this spirit though that your company/church can ensure its future life. It is in this spirit that people will stick to who you are & what you are about. It is in this spirit that your innards will be revitalized by a movement that goes somewhere.

You, Your Brand, Your Product

Today at All American Pest Control Erin hosted an Accelerent seminar led by John Boyans on building sales, referrals, relationships, and overall Accelerent partnership. I’ve started making a few of these but today was a bit different since it was our home turf & it was in our brand new addition’s training room. My primary responsibility was tech emergencies.

John had a few quotables & thoughts that stuck out to me, but the one that stuck the most was.

“People will buy You first, your Brand second, and your Product third.”

I am very inclined to tell folks that they are their brand, and their brand is their communication.. Which pushes on his thoughts a bit.. Then I pieced together the difference. It is the sale, the commitment that make because of the relationship with you. That relationship is real, ie. they actually know you, or perceived, ie. your brand is strong enough that they feel they know you.

What does this mean?…

It means that your mom knows you and loves you and will buy your product no matter what. Even if you tell your mom that the book you were writing has no real value to her what so ever [personal experience confession]. It is why whenever you start something new, you plug the ‘low hanging fruit’ of people who “know you” not necessarily your brand.

It can build on itself as well.

I have no physical product to sell… at least right now.. But I am trying to bring about change. For me this means that my personable relationships are king right now in bringing change. My brand is directly affected and plays a role in these relationships (many times as the introduction to a personal relationship) and how I keep these relationships builds my brand. It is a wonderful cycle

So understand this, whether you are a CEO, Pastor, Writer, Intern..

  1. You, as a person, have a brand that people can relate to
  2. You may belong to a corporate brand that people cannot relate to, only its people. You
  3. When these stars line up you are building some kickass leverage in making change

Unmarketing in Nashville

Tonight I’m sitting in with many of my Nashville tech community friends as we meet Scott Stratten and his “unmarketing” experiences, theory, and book. The event was organized & hosted by my friend John Morgan.

Posted via email from Pilgrimage of Gavin Richardson

@stickysheep : new venture from the brilliant mind of @johnwellis & myself

Stickysheep.com by John W Ellis & Gavin Richardson john ellis and i started hanging out about two years ago and chatting on all things business, church, marketing, web, technology, family and more. eventually some of our thoughts and conversations about the business church marketing technology stuff had us thinking, "we need to write this stuff down. there might be two or three people who want to hear this." so we started writing a book (scary i know). as we are developing the book we have gone and launched "sticky sheep" our concepts home portal. so if you are interested in some of the new ventures of me and/or want to get a glimpse of this collision of business and church then subscribe. i plan on doing a weekly wrap up, such as this, of what have been my musings over there as well.

this week in sticky sheep

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