This is part two in a short series that I have written about church advertising. In this article I continue with the final three concerns that churches often have when considering the notion of advertising on a local Christian radio station.
Radio will seldom be the primary reason why someone visits your church. The most-common reason will be word-of-mouth. Other important factors include location, the sign out front, print, or any intrusive medium. Radio, however will make all of these work better. Your radio spots may end up being the most-recent impression on the visitor's mind, giving him his final reason to visit. If your church distributes visitor cards that ask, "How did you hear about us?" do not to expect the "radio" box to give you an accurate reading regarding the power of this media. The reason - very few people hear about a church from the radio first. They may be sold on visiting, but they are seldom introduced to a church in this manner. What the church should ask is, "Are you aware of our advertisements in the yellow pages, newspaper, radio, etc.?" This question will give the church the information that they seek. It is altogether obvious that if a visitor has been reached by the church's ads, they have been influenced by those ads. The old saying is, "What gets your attention gets you." Constant repetitious exposure to a church's campaign cannot help but to have an effect.
When a client tells me, "No one ever joined our church because of radio," my question is this, "During your campaign, did your attendance go up? If so, there is no doubt in my mind that radio can take at least partial credit. If there is a positive correlation between their radio campaign and their growth, radio shares in the victory."
This is fine, but don't try to build a church on this type of advertising. Let's face it - an evangelist or music group is just like a visitor. When you invite visitors to come see a visitor, they will leave as soon as he does. In other words, these special visitors have become nothing more than an audience, and not a serious prospect for the church. This should not be surprising since these ads draw people on the pretense of being a spectator rather than a potential church member. Consequently, unlike most visitors, they generally come with the intention of leaving.
The unfortunate aspect of advertising special events is that the most important thing about church temporarily becomes the evangelist, the musician, or whatever. In reality, you end up doing more advertising for your guest speaker than you do for yourself. When the object of the ad is gone, so is the reason for your visitor to stay. To build up real church growth, the church should do a long-term image-awareness campaign, emphasizing the major features that are permanent - the pastor, the church itself, etc. Here's the rule: advertise temporary events and the reason that a visitor comes is the same reason that he will leave. If you advertise those things that are permanent, the reason that your visitor visits will also be the reason that he stays.
It's next to impossible to pull anyone from a church where his or her spiritual needs are being met. You may, in fact, draw some away from a situation to which they should not belong. If they are not being spiritually fed at their present church, you should not have a problem with them visiting your church. Secondly, if people do visit your church as a result of your ad, most of the time it is because they are searching anyway. Your spot will never draw anyone that is justifiably happy with their present situation. In fact, after writing over 1000 church spots, serving as a church promotion consultant for a major Christian station, I have seldom witnessed this problem.
From a financial standpoint, the best way to justify purchasing airtime on a Christian station is to determine the per capita income of your market. Knowing the number of families that you have in your church should tell you what percentage of their average income ends up in the offering plate. This will then tell you how many families have to be acquired from any campaign in order to break even on your advertising investment. In more cases than not, I have discovered that the benefits derived from advertising more than compensate for any outlay of funds.