Please tell me that I'm not the only one to ever do this: It's an hour before show time and I realize that I have nothing to say. So, in a panic, I consult Google, the all-knowing Oracle who tells me what happened today in history, who's birthday is coming up and what people are arguing about on Facebook.
I'm trying to stop doing that. Because I think listeners are smart enough to know when I'm at a loss for words. And here's what I'm doing to get better at finding interesting content that makes people want to listen:
1) Get away from the "usual" sources. Look outside of the mainstream "Christian" sites. Why? Because they're the usual sites everyone visits. It's important to know what's being discussed in Christian circles, but try to find a fresh, or local voice.
2) Look for "old" sermons or comments from "yesterday's" greats. I often search for thoughts from speaker and writers like Charles Spurgeon, G. K. Chesterton or A.W. Tozer. Sometimes I try to go farther back to see what Christian leaders from different eras had to say on key issues. You might be surprised at how relevant their thoughts are to today's issues.
3) Search for new trends. Visit sites like Trendswatching.com. The news section highlights trends in other countries and regions. At times, the trends are edgy, but the trends highlighted are interesting and sometimes thought-provoking.
4) Do a Pinterest search for two-sentence stories. Beware: many of them are "horror" stories. The reason I check these from time to time is because it helps me to learn how to convey an idea in a quick, concise way.
5) While you're on Pinterest, search for "writing prompts." Sometimes all you need is a quick boost to spur an idea.
6) Expand your circle. Sometimes the people on the fringes of our lives have the most interesting stories to share. When was the last time you talked to that friend of a friend that you've been meaning to get to know? Or had a conversation with the cashier at the convenience store where you buy gas for your car? You might find an interesting idea to share with your listeners that comes from one of these connections.
Where do you find show prep? How do you cultivate interesting ideas? Be intentional about keeping your eyes and ears open to the stories that are part of our everyday lives. Who knows? You might just find stories and ideas that Google would never even think of!
Making decisions is difficult. And whether you're asking people to buy a sponsor's product, give a monthly donation or sponsor a missions outreach, it all comes down to this: you're asking people to make a decision.
How do you get people to choose your offer? Writing coach Ann Wylie says it comes down to answering four key questions.
1) Where is the pain? The best way to sell detergent is to talk about stains. Every mom has to fight messy stains … that's a pain point. Identify your audience's pain point and use that issue as a starting point for your message.
2) What is the crisis? In the detergent example, we've identified the pain point as a stain. Pain becomes crisis when it seems there's no option or alternative. Again, to use the detergent example, you'll never get rid of stains if you continue on your present path.
3) What is the choice? Do you offer an alternative? What does your product offer that no one else does? Whiter shirts? Cleaner socks? Can you back it up with evidence? What difference does it make?
4) What is the decision? Answer the “why.” But remember, you're really answering the question, “Why should I make a change?” You'll also need to give an emotional reason to make the change.” Use our sponsor's detergent because you'll spend less time getting stains out of your kid's jeans and more time playing with your kids.”
Yes, this is an extremely simplified way to explain spot writing or donor messaging, but if you can answer these four key questions, you'll be on your way to creating powerful stories that convince your audience to choose your offer.
Bill Arbuckle CMW
Social Media is – like all other forms of communication – a double-edged sword. It serves to instantly connect us to friends, family and fans no matter where they live. It’s also a permanent record of our thoughts and comments – good or bad.
Thom Rainer, President and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources, recently published a blog post titled, “Five Reasons Why Pastors Are Getting Fired Because of Their Social Media Posts.” (ThomRainer.com) While his message is tailored to ministers and church leaders, it’s applicable to all of us who represent Christ in our daily work.
Rainer described the five kinds of social media posts that get Christian leaders in trouble:
1) Combative/Sarcastic Comments
2) Political Comments
3) Taking on Church Members (Online
4) Criticizing Others
5) Unsavory Comments
In his article, he also quotes from the Book of James, “If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, then his religion is useless and he deceives himself … (The tongue) pollutes the whole body and sets the course of life on fire, and is set on fire by hell.” (James 1:26, 3:6)
As we continue to connect with audiences via social media, it’s important to pause and think through our posts. Rainer’s list is a great place to start. So is Philippians 4:8 – “Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable…”
Our witness – our ministry – is based on words. So wherever and whenever you use words – especially on social media – use your words to encourage others and point them to Jesus.
Bill Arbuckle CMW
Day-to-day work life is overwhelming. There's so much to do, so much to keep track of. How do you stay on top of all the new trends that affect our media world and our culture? If you haven't been able to “come up for air” in a while, here's a snapshot of some of the trends that are shaping society:
1) Americans are feeling positive about some religious groups. (PewResearch.org) America may be moving toward a “post-Christian” society, but we still have some affinity for faith groups – Jews, Catholics and Mainline Protestants, to be exact. Nearly 70 percent of Americans surveyed see these groups in a positive light. Six-in-ten Americans see Evangelical Christians in a positive manner. While Americans are “warming” toward atheism, only half report a positive feeling about it.
2) Live streaming video continues to grow. (Hubspot.com) Livestreaming is gaining ground as a communications tool. Everyone from brands to public information officers are finding ways to stream live content to social media. As an aside, you may want to try streaming interviews or events and inviting your audience to view the experience.
3) Virtual “experiences” are gaining ground. (Trendwatching.com/trends/5-trends-for-2017) TOMS shoes takes people “on tour” to show how their shoe donations are making a difference in children's lives. Compassion International offers the “Haiti Experience” - a virtual reality (VR) tour of homes and projects in the island nation. VR isn't cheap or easy – yet – but it is gaining ground.
4) Transparency builds trust. (VisionCritical.com/massive-business-trends-2017) People are looking for imperfect, yet authentic communications. People want “real.”
These are just a few of the top trends in today's culture. I encourage you to take a few minutes to do your own research and learn about new tools and lifestyle changes so that you can become an even more effective communicator. Remember that while our world changes, Christ will never change. Our challenge is to communicate the timeless truths of the Gospel. One way we do that is by tapping into our culture through new tools and channels. Whatever channel(s) you use, be a light in the darkness and point people to Jesus Christ!
Bill Arbuckle CMW
Have you started planning your station's Easter promotions? If not, here are a couple of ideas to consider as you look ahead.
1) Get local churches involved. The easiest way is to remind churches to send information about their Easter Sunday services. Other ideas include asking local pastors to write a devotional that appears on your station Facebook page. Promote it on air, online and via social media. Most ministers have something readily available, so it's just a matter of inviting them to submit. It can help build important relationships with your local community.
2) Think about families. What is mom doing around Easter? Building baskets for kids? Give her some tips and ideas so she can stuff Easter baskets with more than candy. Are families sharing Easter dinner? Offer recipes or Easter-dinner survival tips.
3) Talk about service projects. You may know of local ministries who will be serving a special dinner. Promote it and invite your listeners to volunteer or donate food. How about nursing homes and care facilities? Find out what's available and share it with your audience.
4) Have fun. Easter egg hunts are fun, by why not mix it up a bit and offer a digital Easter egg hunt that families can do on their own time. Pick various local tourist sites or choose area churches as your “eggs.” Encourage families to share their findings and earn a prize for competing. (Invite sponsors to contribute a free/discount meal or something small that families can enjoy together.
5) Share the hope. Easter is, after all, the greatest reason for hope. We celebrate Christ's resurrection … make sure people know why it matters. You don't have to beat people over the head with the message, but you can find some upbeat, hopeful ways share Christ's sacrifice for us.
Start planning your Easter promotions and find ways to get families involved with your message.
Bill Arbuckle CMW