Expert Columns

How long should your communications take? Is there a special length, character count or video time?
The answer is both “yes” and “no.” Here's why: Your communication (whether an on-air break, a blog post, Facebook update, Tweet or video) should last just long enough to get your audience to understand your message and take action. Any longer … and they'll lose interest. So, no. There is no “special length” for communications.
However, the reality is that we have limits to communications. Whether on air or online, we are restricted by our audience's attention span and our platform's settings. With that in mind, here are some industry standards that will help you shape your message and help your audiences understand your message and take action.
• Facebook videos – Two minutes. Unless you're livestreaming or producing a show, the recommended length for an online video is two minutes.
• Facebook posts – 40 characters. Social media specialist Jeff Bullas finds that 40 characters is the ideal length for engagement. That doesn't give you a lot of space with which to work, but it does give you the ideal length to capture someone's interest and send them to a news article, blog post or video.
• Twitter – 120 - 130 characters. Yes, you can now post 280 characters, but the ideal length is still less than half the allowed limit. It allows a concise thought and space to add your handle or hashtag.
• Instagram Captions – 120 characters. Instagram is all about photos, and a picture is worth a thousand words...
• Blog posts – 2,100 words or seven minutes of “read time.” Blogs or web posts offer space to unpack an idea, but people will only commit limited time to reading your thoughts. Seven minutes give you enough time to explain your point, but doesn't leave a lot of room for fluff. If you want to write more, expand your thoughts over several posts ... or write a book.
• Paragraphs – 3-4 sentences. It's a lot more room than you think. In fact, the average paragraph in this article is only three sentences.
• Headlines – 6 words. Keep headlines punchy and powerful. No wasted space.
Are you noticing a theme? Here is is: Keep it simple. Platforms have space limitations. Audiences have short attention spans. But a good communicator can work within those limitations and unleash a powerful message.
It takes a lot of work. But it's worth it. People will notice when you speak their language in a way that invites them to listen.
Oh … and one more thought about effective communications: Don't be boring.
Keep it simple. Keep it interesting. It will make a difference.
(Sources: Hubspot.com, FastCompany.com)

How well do you know your audience? Do you know their names? Their likes and dislikes? Do you know their families? If I had to guess, I'd say that you have a pretty good idea of your ideal listener's personality, preferences and practices. But that's only part of the picture ... because communication – at its most basic – is this: sending a message to a receiver and dealing with the interference between the two.
When it comes to communicating with your listeners, what things interfere with your message? What cultural roadblocks stand in the way of someone hearing your words and clearly understanding your intention?
Here are three cultural realities that affect our listeners and our message. (Source: 17 Striking Findings from 2017, Pew Research Center, 12/26/17)
1) There is a real – and growing – political divide in America. Since 1994, the “gap” between Republicans and Democrats has more than doubled. Today, our views have so polarized, that political opinions are tearing apart relationships.
What does this mean for you as a Christian communicator? Our audience consists of a wide spectrum of opinions and values – even among those in the same political parties. This means that it is more important than ever to speak the truth in love and be a catalyst that unites our brothers and sisters in Christ. It also means that we may need to spend more time researching issues and growing in our knowledge of God's Word in order to know the truth and share it in a way that reflects Jesus Christ.
2) Media is distrusted and divisive. The Pew Research Center shows that our political affiliation determines how people see the media's role. Are we “watchdogs” who hold our leaders accountable? Are we too permissive? Or … are we something different?
What does this mean for you as a Christian communicator? You and I are “the media.” We need to be clear in our intentions and consistent in our words and deeds. We also need to determine if we are more than a music format, and how we help shape our communities.
” The numbers of single or never-wed Americans is rising. According to Pew Research, nearly 6-in-10 Americans under age 35 are living without a spouse or partner.
What does this mean for you as a Christian communicator? God designed families. His plan for us is to live in fellowship with others. He describes our relationship with Christ as that of a bride and groom. God places the lonely in families. How do we describe this kind of relationship to those who have never experienced it? What words and ideas do we use to invite others in to God's family?
The answers to these questions will differ according to markets and audiences, but the challenge is the same: Our goal in 2018 is to study our audience and work to overcome the cultural roadblocks that interfere listeners hearing and understanding the life-giving message of Jesus Christ.

What's next? This is generally the time of year that we're checking predictions for the next big thing in media, religion, politics, shopping trends and which teams will advance to the Super Bowl.
Maybe, for you, this is a time to look ahead and make plans for the coming year. What's your next big idea? How will you follow it?
Or maybe the question is this: How do we reach our world when people seem to be turning away from the Truth? How do we share the Gospel when it seems like no one wants to listen?
We face several challenges in the coming year. But as you think about the challenges and opportunities ahead, remember these bold words – God's promise – from Joshua 1:9 - “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Whatever your next steps … whatever challenges we face in the coming year … remember that we don't face the future alone. God is with us.
Happy New Year!


Bill Arbuckle CMW     

    
Bill Arbuckle is a media and marketing pro with over twenty-five years experience in creating media promotions.  He is a Colorado Springs-based morning show co-host and writer. You can connect
with him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it....

As you're getting back to “normal” after the holidays, here's a list of topics to help you start your daily prep, blog posts and social media comments. As you look through the list, be sure to ask, “What is the most important thing my audience wants to hear/read/talk about today?”

Topics/Conversation Starters

• How to keep your new year's resolutions

• How to create new habits/routines in the new year

• How to help your kids get back into the school routine after the holidays

• How to be healthy in 2018 (Interview a fitness instructor or life coach)

• How to clean your closet, organize your clothes and throw out stuff you don't need

• Talk about resolutions: What will you do in the new year? What will you NOT do? (Keep this light and fun)

• Unusual resolutions: Everyone plans to lose weight, exercise more, wake up early … and then there's that one goal that's a bit out of the ordinary. What is your unusual goal?

• What's on your 2018 Bucket List?

• What is one thing you'd like to do with/for your kids/grandkids in 2018? How will you do it?

Holidays/Key Dates

• January 6 – Epiphany

• January 15 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

• January 18 – Winnie the Pooh Day (the birthday of A.A. Milne, creator of Winnie the Pooh) Read or share a few Winnie the Pooh memories, quotes or stories. This could also be a fun online/social media post.

• January 28 – National Kazoo Day – Play a few current hits on the kazoo. Or invite listeners to participate. Maybe...

Online Topics

• Organization: Share articles and tips about home organization. Invite users to share their ideas and organizing secrets.

• How to beat the post-holiday blahs.

• How to manage your finances in 2018. (Share ideas from a local financial planner or connect with one of the large ministries that deal with finances.)

Again, as you consider these – and many other topics – always remember to ask “What is the most important thing my audience wants to talk about today?”

Happy New Year!

Bill Arbuckle CMW

Bill Arbuckle is a media and marketing pro with over twenty-five years experience in creating media promotions. You can connect with him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

My work desk – the one in my home office – is cluttered. It's covered in old books, Moleskine journals,  a telegraph key, speakers, an M-Audio interface for recording, loose change, action figures … and rocks. Cool-looking rocks. A fossilized ammonite shell takes up a one corner of the desktop. Two chunks of feldspar crystals sit atop the hutch. A couple more chunks of calcite crystals sit to the right – just under the desk lamp. Add in some glass jars full of polished brown jasper, tumbled quartz and  a thumb-sized piece of a meteorite, and, well, that's my work environment.
Why all the rocks? I've collected since I was a kid. But lately, it comes down to a couple of reasons: First, one of my close friends is a former geologist. He knows where to find all the cool stuff. Secondly, because I've been challenged – more like convicted – to add margin into my life.
I think it all started when I came across a quote by Jimmy Mellado, the President of Compassion International: “Don't let doing the work of God destroy the work God is doing in you.”
Seems counter-intuitive. After all, doesn't God call us to do His work? Yes. But He also calls us to “Come apart and rest.” To be honest, while I can do the work part of the equation … I struggle to do the “rest” part. And while it's taken a long time to realize, resting is just as important as working. Because when I rest, what I'm really saying is, “God, I trust you to take care of things.”
There's another reason that rest and margin are so important. Here's Dr. Richard A. Swenson from his book, “Margin” - “We must have some room to breathe. We need freedom to think and permission to heal. Our relationships are being starved to death by velocity. No one has the time to listen, let alone love. Our children lay wounded on the ground, run over by our high-speed good intentions. Is God now pro-exhaustion? Doesn’t He lead people beside the still waters anymore? Who plundered those wide-open spaces of the past, and how can we get them back? There are no fallow lands for our emotions to lie down and rest in.”
That brings me back to my work desk and all the rocks that clutter it. For me, this is a tangible way to follow God's command to rest. To add margin and space. To get away from things for a few hours so that I can be rested enough to tackle God's work in a fresh, creative way. It's only a first step. I have a long way to go. And I'm challenging you to ask God to show you where – and how – you can add rest and margin into your life. How's that for a goal in 2018?
Need some encouragement to start? How about Jesus' words in Matthew 11:28-30 (from The Message):
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Get some rest. See how it makes a difference in your life and ministry.

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