Force for Good:
Marketing* Your Work
By Peter Amsterdam
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As Christians, the motivation behind our charitable works, networking, collaboration, building relations in the community, etc., comes back to our core purpose: the mission. Our goal is to “share the good news of God’s love, truth, and salvation” and to “translate God’s love into action in a way that brings a touch of the divine to someone’s spirit, and leads people to the discovery of a personal relationship with Jesus.” At the heart of it all is love for humankind, for our neighbors, far and near, for those who have yet to forge a relationship with God, or for those who seek to grow in their spiritual lives. We are striving to share God’s unconditional love for others “that knows no boundaries of race, creed, or status, [and that] motivates and guides us to help meet the needs of those we come in contact with, whether spiritually or practically.” (See TFI’s core values.)
While our motives are spiritual, and love for God and humankind are the foundation, these need to be manifested in ways that will relate to the people we seek to reach and will accurately transmit these values. The presentation of our faith and our works needs to be appealing and relatable, if people are to feel confident about investing their trust and time in it.
Our mission statement expresses three broad goals:
- Sharing the message of God’s love for humankind
- Providing spiritual and emotional support for managing the challenges of modern life
- Enhancing the quality of life of the disadvantaged, displaced, and those without hope
To be successful in fulfilling each of these three goals will often require tailoring our presentation, our methods, and our message in terms that the people in our community can relate to and will perceive as trustworthy, credible, genuine, and worth investing in. If the presentation of your work or your role meets their expectations, it’s more likely that they will take the time to get to know you better (and ultimately the message you bring) or to invest in your work.
This is not a one-time process. What may have been considered professional and even advanced in its day will eventually become passé and behind the times. A presentation portfolio or a website, for example, will become dated in time, even if it is cutting edge when it is created.
How people perceive you, your project, and the organization, legal entity, or charitable foundation that you represent will likely play a role in whether they will go on to forge a relationship with you, or be interested in networking with you or collaborating on a project. If you’re going to create a good and accurate impression of yourself and your work, and thereby inspire trust and interest, you’ll want to become attuned to how people perceive you and your project and whether what you are transmitting to others serves as a faithful representation of your mission work, your faith, and your message. And whether people perceive it as such.
Experts in imaging emphasize that what counts is not just our intentions, but people’s perception. The goal is to project your image in such a way that it will be positively perceived by the public you are interacting with. You’ll want to visualize your presentation through the lens of how others will perceive it and how they will interpret it. Successful communication is not just about transmitting an idea, but it’s also about the other person receiving that idea and interpreting it as you intended.
As one marketing consultant put it:
You might run a great company, your product or service might genuinely provide great benefits. But if the customer does not perceive it that way, it remains on the shelves.
If the perception is favorable, a company will want to enhance it. If it is unfavorable, the company will want to change it. If there is no perception, as with a new product, the company will want to create it.1
It behooves us to strive to ensure that our presentation and explanation of our works and projects is professional, relatable, and current, if we hope to be a positive influence and ultimately a force for good in our community.
You may wonder whether publicizing your good works is self-serving, and whether you should avoid trying to promote them, letting your works and your witness speak for themselves. It is, of course, a matter of personal faith whether you will actively strive to market your work, and a practical matter as to whether your work is such that it will benefit from it.
Following are excerpts of an interesting explanation from one church’s newsroom about publicizing good works.
Few stories are more uplifting than those dealing with humanitarian efforts that better the lives of others. Most are familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan and are touched by his selflessness and kindness; it has no doubt moved millions to offer Christian service. The Church often wrestles over the issue of when humanitarian efforts should be publicized and when they should not.
Two New Testament scriptures seem to be somewhat in conflict regarding the issue. In the Beatitudes, Jesus taught that we should do our “alms … in secret.” Yet in another Bible scripture, Jesus tells His followers to “let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
While the many humanitarian workers around the world go about their business humbly and modestly, they inescapably attract media attention. Though this is not the intention of the efforts, it raises the awareness of people across the globe to real problems facing God’s children.
Publicizing of these efforts helps create a culture and environment that place value on Christian service. It also fosters valuable partnerships between the Church and various other humanitarian organizations that have a mutual interest in sharing best practices, methods and strategies.2
Whether you choose to proactively promote your mission work or not, professional presentation will continue to make a difference in how people perceive you, your work, and the organization(s) you represent, and whether they choose to build a relationship with you.
We’ve got the best product in the world—Jesus and His love and answers—but unless we package it and market it in ways that are palatable and attractive to the public, we won’t be able to “sell” it. In our case, our goal is not just to create a positive impression but to be a positive influence—a force for good—and to promote goodwill in the local community.
Professional presentation tools
Every business has to seek and find new opportunities, create new products and advertising campaigns, and update its methods and product lines. There is no way around change, innovation, and pioneering if anyone wants to be on the cutting edge, advancing into the future and scooping up the success that awaits there. What we did in the past will likely need to be adapted, tweaked, changed, or canned, and that’s going to require innovation.
There are a number of ways of successfully presenting and promoting your work, including brochures, presentation albums, business cards, websites, multimedia, recommendation letters, project reports, news releases, annual reports, positive media coverage, etc. Successful marketing will generally draw from a combination of at least a few of these.
In most countries people will generally expect that you will have an accessible, professional portfolio of your work.
Your web presence
The web has transformed the rules [of marketing], and you must transform your strategies to make the most of the web-enabled marketplace of ideas.3
An increasingly important way in which you can market your mission work and your message is via the web. Experts in marketing refer to the web as having changed all the rules of engagement for advertising and reaching niche audiences. Nowadays anyone can market a good idea, message, product, or work via the web with few resources, which can be very effective in reaching specific audiences.
For centuries, missionaries have ventured to the farthest reaches of the globe to share the Gospel. Today, the new mission field is just a mouse click away. Some 2 million surfers a day type keywords like “God” and “Jesus” into search engines.
“The paradigm of evangelism is changing. In the past, various Christian groups would go door-to-door, or they would hold citywide crusades,” said the Rev. Allan Beeber, the Orlando director of Global Media Outreach. “The paradigm change is that people are now coming to us.” …
“Absolutely it’s the new frontier,” said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project. “In advanced economies, the majority of people are online, and … they begin to think of the Internet as the default starting place for all kinds of information searches.
“So it’s not surprising that when people have spiritual questions or have concerns about the direction of their lives, a lot of them now sort of start their search for answers online.”4
There are many good reasons to consider marketing the message or your mission work—whether spiritual or practical or both—on the Internet. In much of the world, the first thing people will do after meeting you is to look you up on the Internet and find your virtual presentation of your work. Having a solid presentation of your mission work on the web can enhance your professional profile and boost your credibility.
You can also use the social networking tools on the web to build a congregation or to provide a witness. Or the Lord may lead you to post your personal testimony or join a chat room that enables you to network and share your testimony with others. Or you may decide to post video clips on YouTube. There are many ways in which the Lord may lead you to promote the Gospel through the Internet to reach specific audiences.
There’s no doubt that there is a long-tail market for web content created by organizations of all kinds—corporations, nonprofits, churches, schools, individuals, rock bands—and used for reaching buyers—those who buy, donate, join, apply—directly. As consumers search the Internet for answers to their problems, as they browse blogs and chat rooms and websites for ideas, they are searching for what organizations like yours have to offer. Unlike in the days of the old rules of marketing with a mainstream message, today’s consumers are looking for just the right product or service to satisfy their unique desires at the precise moment they are online.
Marketers must shift their thinking from … mainstream marketing to the masses to a strategy of targeting vast numbers of underserved audiences via the web.5
Bearing in mind the potential and the impact of the Internet can help us to better avail ourselves of it to market our work and our message, and to provide a good public presence.
In many countries, a lack of a public presence speaks against an organization or its work. The lack of a presence can indicate a lack of professionalism or success. It can be a disadvantage and work against you, since people often go to the Internet for further information on an organization or program before getting involved.
The Internet is not some sandbox that can be walled off anymore—it is fully integrated into all elements of business and society.6
It takes time to work on your presentation portfolio. Any company, business, or nonprofit—large or small—that wishes to grow, expand its base of influence, and succeed generally has to invest in its presentation and marketing skills. Those involved have to take a close look at the publics they are trying to reach and analyze whether their current methods, presentation, and approach are properly targeted to meet their goals. But the time you invest in professionalizing your presentation, ensuring that it is in step with professional standards and people’s expectations, can be well worth it.
* In this post and the one that follows, we use marketing in the sense of the following definitions: the provision of goods or services to meet customer or consumer needs; the commercial processes involved in promoting and selling and distributing a product or service.
Originally published January 2011. Adapted and republished June 2013.
Read by Simon Peterson.
1 Robert Leaf.
2 Courtesy of the Latter-day Saints newsroom.
3 David M. Scott.
4 Amy Green, 2009.
5 David M. Scott, The New Rules of Marketing and PR (Your Coach in a Box, 2009).
6 Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies (Harvard Business Review Press, 2011).