Expert Columns

Summer is a great time to strengthen your station brand. Your team is out and about in the community, you’re running a number of promotions, and you’re connecting one-on-one with listeners.
 Before you head out to that next remote, take some time to assess your brand and ask if it is still connecting with your audience, on-air, online, and in-person. And here’s the best place to start. Ask yourself, “What does my brand say about our station?”
Stop just a second and take a look at your business card. Take a look at your program guide. Check your web site, Instagram, Twitter  and Facebook pages to see what your brand says about you. Here are three things to look for:
1. Does my brand still connect with my audience? Branding is more than just a logo or an imager. It’s a promise you make to your listeners. It covers everything that you do. So put it this way: Do listeners feel like I’m keeping my promise?  
2. Does my brand image still look/sound relevant? Words and design change quickly. Are you still using the same words that you used in 2005? That’s not a bad thing if listeners still connect with your promise to stay safe for little ears. But have you and your listeners outgrown that concept? Are you more than “safe” for families? Families may want more than safe. They may want shelter from life’s storms.  
3. Does my brand stay consistent across all media channels? You’re more than just an on-air signal. You’re also a web programmer, social media communicator, video producer, and in some cases, a publisher. Do all of your channels march in lock-step? Will someone know what to expect on air by reading your Twitter feed? Do your jocks reflect the messages on your Pinterest page?  
Managing the station brand is a tough job. But it’s one of the most important things you can do in today’s media world. Remember, a brand is a promise you make to your audience. Make sure you’re keeping that promise.

Who are you talking to when you flip open the mic or type a thought on social media? Current research provides some interesting facts on American's faith and practices. Here's a glimpse of our audience:
1) American = Christian. Kind of. According to Christianity Today (The Exchange, 2/14/17), about half of Americans call themselves Christians … but it's just a title. Only about 25-percent of the population calls itself Christian and lives like it. Note: Pew Research finds the number higher – 71% refer to themselves as Christian. (4/26/17)
2) Christians love Jesus, but not the Church. The latest Barna Group research finds that many American Christians believe faith is important, but haven't been to church in the past six months.
3) People still think of Clergy in positive terms. Sixty-six percent of Americans feel religious leaders bring value to the public. (Barna Group, 3/16/17)
4) More education = less religion? A new report from Pew Research finds that only 46% of college grads say religion is “very important” in their lives, while 58% of high-school-only grads say it is “very important.” (In America, Does More Education Mean Less Religion? Pew Research, 4/26/17)
5) Americans are more positive toward religion today than just a few years ago. Jews, Catholics and Mainline Protestants enjoy the highest ratings, while Evangelical Christianity and Hinduism are close behind. (Americans Express Increasingly Warm Feelings Toward Religious Groups, Pew Research, 2/15/17)
What can you do with this reasearch? View it as a tool to help find content that will connect with people who are aware of – and in some cases – connected to Christianity … but may not have realized the power of the Gospel and the realities of the risen Christ. As a media personality, you may be able to reach people who may not respond to a more “formal” presentation of the Gospel. So use this platform to support our churches and show our audience the difference Christ can make in our lives. Be relevant. Be real. And shine a light.

United Airlines may have done everything right. They may have played by the book and followed the rules. There are likely facts that we don't know. But what we do know is this: United Airlines made a huge public relations blunder by allowing authorities drag a man off of a plane so that airline employees could have a seat on the flight.
You've probably seen the videos from people who were on United Flight 3411 in Chicago. And you've probably seen the aftermath of the situation: protests, online memes and Twitter posts. The company will spend years recovering from the negativity generated by the incident. People will remember the airline's treatment of Dr. David Dao whenever United Airlines is mentioned.
The United Airlines incident offers some important lessons that everyone in media and communications should remember. Share these three reminders with your team:
1) The mic is always live. We live in an always-on world. Between smart phones, live Facebook streaming and “citizen journalism,” we all live under a microscope. The world seems ready to pounce on any – and every – mistake. United Airlines forgot that people are watching and listening. People can watch – and re-watch – a passenger being mistreated. While we can't control everything, we can at least remember that people are watching and listening. Let that truth impact your decisions and live like the mic is live and that your words will be captured.
2) It's not what you say, it's what people hear. Not only did United mistreat a passenger, their company president seemed to reinforce the decision. In a leaked memo to his staff, Oscar Munoz reminded workers that the flight crew and authorities acted within established rules and guidelines. From an internal communications perspective, Munoz did the right thing: he backed the team's decision and reinforced the importance of playing by the rules. But outsiders heard his words differently. They perceived that United was inflexible, rigid and right at any cost. When they compared Munoz' words with the online video, the reaction was swift and brutal. People process emotions before facts, so make sure that your message connects people with truth and heart.
3) When you mess up, own up. And do it right away. United Airlines would be in less hot water today had their president made a public statement as soon as the videos went viral. Even a simple statement could have saved the airline from such severe backlash. Instead, United dragged its feet and allowed the public to fill in the blanks. Anything United does at this time will be interpreted as “too little, too late.” People are willing to forgive when someone sincerely admits their mistakes and takes ownership of the situation.
Use this situation to reassess your communications. Whether you're reviewing broadcast/online content of your personal communications channels, remember the lessons learned from United Airlines. And remember that as Christian communicators, our words reflect back on The Word. Shine a light by communicating with integrity.

Start planning your summer promotions now. Take a few minutes this week and answer these questions:
1) How can I serve my listeners – especially moms of school-aged kids – this summer?
2) How do I want the station to be perceived?
3) How can I keep listeners engaged on a daily basis?
4) Where do I want the station to be (financially, listenership, credibility) for Fall/Winter events?
Note: “Promotions” aren't always about doing things. More often than not, “promotions” are about establishing and strengthening your station image.
While you're planning promotions and events, here are a few dates to keep in mind:
• May 14 – Mother's Day
• May 29 – Memorial Day
• June 6 – D-Day
• June 14 – Flag Day
• June 18 – Father's Day
• June 19 – Juneteenth Day
• June 20 – Summer Solstice
• July 4 – Independence Day
Take a look at these dates and events, then apply the answers to the questions above. If these events help serve listeners, strengthen your credibility and engage listeners, they might just be a good fit.
This coming summer, put your time and energy into the promotions and events that will grow your station's brand and increase listenership.

Palm Sunday 2017. Two suicide bombers detonated explosives in Coptic churches, killing more than 40 people and wounding another 100. Egyptian Christians mourn the loss of family and security. It's a tough start to Holy Week.
Because this coming Sunday is Easter Sunday, we celebrate Christ's resurrection and know that because He lives, we have hope. This is not the end. But at this moment, families in Egypt are mourning the loss of family and struggling to remember that there is hope.
As you and your listeners celebrate Holy Week, please take time to pray for Egyptian Christians. Open Doors USA has posted specific prayer requests for these believers.
1) Pray for immediate aid to reach those injured from the blasts.
2) Pray for the believers who've faced this terror first-hand and lost loved ones and close friends.
3) Pray for justice. Pray that this terrible event will draw the attention of world leaders to focus more heavily on human rights and religious freedom in Egypt.
4) Pray for the Church in Egypt to be both comforted and strengthened in the midst of this senseless tragedy.
The Coptic Church is a significant player in the history of the Early Church. Mark, the Gospel writer, founded a church in Alexandria, Egypt and is credited with bringing the Gospel to Africa. The Coptic church claims to be a direct descendant from Mark's evangelism. In the 400's, the Coptic Church stood against Gnostic teachings and affirmed both the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ. Because of their faith and their geographical location, Coptic Christians have also experienced persecution since the early days of the Church – first under the Romans and later during Muslim conquests of Egypt.
God cares deeply about the people of Egypt – both Christian and Muslim. Pray for them this week as they begin the business of living life again after such horror. Pray that through this tragedy, Christ is glorified and that the people of Egypt hear the truth and hope of Easter: He is risen.
He is risen indeed.
(Prayer article: OpenDoorsUSA.org - “Urgent Prayer. Palm Sunday Church Bombing in Egypt Kills At Least 42.)

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