The Marketing of Religion
Once you peel off all the out-of-context quotes from pop-management books, it's just the same as any other marketing demonstration.
1. Identify the market you're aiming for.
2. Identify the product to sell to them.
3. Deliver the product to the market.
4. Rake in the money.
This was on AOL the other evening. It is raising a big stink, because Mike was a former Worldwide Church of Goder who is now giving UCG advice (non theological).
Subject: Excellent Words from Mr Snyder
Date: Tue, Aug 18, 1998 08:19 AM
From: PHILPHIL Message-id: <1998081815191000.LAA26385@ladder01.news.aol.com
United Church of God, an International Association Council of Elders Meeting Report
Thursday, August 13, 1998 -
The Council of Elders today engaged in an information-packed session that offered a frank but constructive analysis of the Church's leadership, specifically in the communications area, in the last three years.
Through a presentation titled, "Credibility and Communication: Tools for Developing a Powerful 21st Century Visionary Organization," Michael Snyder gave a professional opinion of the strengths and weaknesses of the United Church of God, the challenges facing its leadership, and potential solutions. Except for a Media Committee meeting from 8:30 to 10:00 AM, this topic consumed the day's talks. Background to the presentation Victor Kubik introduced Mr. Snyder, who was employed for several years in public relations positions at the Worldwide Church of God. He later taught communications at Pepperdine University, and is currently the vice-president and director of the public relations department at one of the largest advertising firms in the midwestern US. He has been a featured speaker at a number of national conventions, holds an MBA degree in marketing and is professionally accredited in the Public Relations Society of America. After moving to Indianapolis a couple of years ago Mr. Kubik renewed his acquaintance with Mr. Snyder.
"He has given me several ideas and principles to better present both myself and the church in ways where people can quickly understand and appreciate what we do and who we are," said Mr. Kubik. "Mike showed me how I could further improve on publicly discussing the church in a way that would generate genuine interest instead of controversy or suspicion." He felt the Council could benefit an objective, solution-oriented presentation outlining principles that would both advance the mission of the church and reduce conflict.
To prepare his summary, Mr. Snyder said he spent over 100 hours compiling information, reviewing the entirety of UCG-published materials, and analyzing the key messages to see how they actually translated in the view of the broad audience. "This is exactly the kind of counsel that if you were a client I would give you," he said.
He stated that his presentation would not address theological issues, focus on personalities or "ancient history," or indulge in "hand-wringing" over the past. Rather, he hoped his research, applied to our position today, could be very helpful for the Council in leading and responding to the needs of the Church. "This is a forward-looking presentation that is supposed to prompt and challenge you to develop the solutions to your communications issues."
Much of his material was garnered not only from practical experience but from a variety of well-known business books, a list of which is given at the end of this report.
The current state of affairs Mr. Snyder began by asking Council members to consider two quotes that portray a choice of perspectives. "For all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, `It might have been'" (Whittier), and "No person can lead other people except by showing them a future. A leader is a merchant of hope" (Napoleon). The first is one nobody wants to ever have to say; the second speaks to the role of church leaders in particular.
The Council, in order to improve communication and establish a strong church identity, needs to "identify organizational and personal behaviors that inadvertently create obstacles instead of opportunities, start a process of changing those identified behaviors, identify your strengths as an organization and start a process of maximizing those strengths."
He encouraged the Council to not be too defensive in dealing with crises, which will inevitably arise. Defensive modes back people into corners so that any move that is made seems to make the matter worse. He also pointed out that in all aspects of society today, crises now are complicated because of the Internet, especially in the absence of good communication. "When people don't trust what you are saying, and don't think they are getting the information they need, what they will do is make it up, and they will put it out in any format they need," he warned. "What do you have to do?" he asked. "You have to take control. You are the decision-making point of this whole organization you are the leadership." He quoted the Jewish leader Hillel, who asked about 2,000 years ago, "If not you, then who? If not now, then when?" The 20-60-20 Rule - "Quitters, Campers, and Climbers" Mr. Snyder recommended reading a recently-published book titled The Adversity Quotient, which analyzes why some highly intelligent and emotionally stable people fail while others succeed. "[The author] quotes Ecclesiastes in the first chapter where Solomon talks about life and he describes is as `a sore travail.' He points out that in 75% of what we do our entire lives, apart from sleeping, we face adversity. He found a way to measure how people react to adversity...and your adversity quotient is almost an exact predictor of how your are going to be successful in life."
Most organizations, at any given time but especially during times of change, are made up of the following three categories of people, Mr. Snyder said: £
The "Quitters"_20 per cent of the people who are "professional complainers" and do nothing but take pot shots (every decision is wrong, no matter what it is). They have a different agenda, may actually work against organization goals, are often highly de-energized and work actively to make other people that way.
The "Campers"_60 per cent, people who started climbing the mountain of life and at some point they got burnt out or said `I've had enough adversity' and they stop and "camp out." They are moderately-to-neutrally energized, but are willing to be directed and follow leadership.
£ The "Climbers"_20 per cent of the people who have faith in something bigger than themselves and even though they face adversity they keep going; they never stop their entire lives despite setbacks and discouragement.
The problem is, while the last 20 per cent does 70 per cent of the work, leadership ends up spending 80 per cent of its time with the first 20 per cent. You eventually reach a point of diminishing returns because you don't have the time, energy and resources to continually address; such efforts only sap your own strength. Effective leadership focuses on energizing the middle group and pulling them into the upper 20 per cent.
He also urged the Council to watch for personal burn out and to be aware of the signs indicating tiredness, because that affects leadership capacity. Countering deceptive myths Next, Mr. Snyder reviewed one author's listing of various myths that affect views of business, and identified how truly visionary leadership creates success. Visionary companies "are significantly less likely to have early success but, like the tortoise and the hare, win the long race often after a slow start." They communicate a vision for big goals, consistently champion and live by right core values and do not change them ("When you start messing with the core values, you take away the very thing that made it successful," he said).
Another business myth he noted is that one should focus primarily on beating the competition. In reality, healthy, visionary organizations focus primarily on beating themselves they never think they've done good enough and are always seeking to improve their own performance. Additionally, visionary organizations make some of their best moves not by brilliant and complex strategic planning, but by experimentation, trial and error, opportunism and sometimes by accident. "Visionary organizations do not brutalize themselves with `the tyranny of OR,'" he said. Rather, "They embrace `the genius of AND'" the view that allows them to pursue "A" and "B" at the same time. He offered, for a church example, various efforts to preach the gospel both locally and centrally. Successful businesses focus on clusters of objectives, rather than making money. Income is a by-product of achieving other fundamental objectives, such as exemplary service. In the contemporary church context where there are several organizations, he noted that people are still committed to tithing, but will send their tithes to where they believe there is value. If you are focused on the right objectives, people will want to support your efforts, he said. Building credibility as the foundation of leadership "Leadership is a relationship," Mr. Snyder said. Telling people to "do this" or "do that" is command and control. People find you much more credible if you give them ownership, energize them and we do it together. People march in step because they trust you, believe in you and you have a relationship with them.
"If you have no credibility, you can only govern on the basis of fear," he said. "The higher degree of credibility you have, the more you get done, the more you attract people. Your organization becomes a magnet, as opposed to a person." Reasons for cynicism The book Credibility lists several reasons why people become cynical in business, Mr. Snyder said, and the same principles can apply to the church. One is scandal. Organizations cannot avoid scandals, because of the human element somebody will eventually do something scandalous so you just prepare for them. However, most people want to cover them up and they just become "skeletons in the closet." From a scandal perspective, you beat cynicism by open acknowledgment, recognition of repentance, he advised.
"[You] say, `This guy did this, he's sorry about it, we're sorry about it, we're human beings, we forgive him, it's the spirit of love, thank you very much, good-bye' 'public burial.' Public burials are a lot better than rotting corpses in closets. You only have to do it once instead of four or five times."
Betrayal is another big producer of cynicism. "Everybody in this room has gone through emotional disconnects in the last decade," Mr. Snyder pointed out. "You get cynical about it when betrayed by a leader."
People then sometimes make judgments based on cynical feelings "I'm not going to join this group because everyone's just as bad as the one I came out of." Disillusionment brings on skepticism. People believe in something, give it a chance, and then it fails or doesn't work to their expectation; distrust results. Another is suspicion of power the "who's-really-in-charge?" cynicism. From cynicism to restored faith Several dynamics can begin to restore faith. Clear accountability is critical, the type where people know you are accountable to them, even if you are their leader. That feeling instills greater faith. Giving clear messages (not hazy sayings), creating organizational enthusiasm, living personal values that are consistent with organizational values, and fostering a sense of shared "ownership" (everyone feeling like they are an important part of things) are other very important factors. Some operate by the maxim, Mr. Snyder said, of, "Do what you say you will do." This is the minimum standard but even that might not effectively build credibility. The better standard that does build credibility is, "Do what WE say WE will do. "Evaluating the tone of the messages in UCG publications His review of all the church communications brought to light several trends, Mr. Snyder observed. He advised the Council not to be too defensive or justifying in tone, nor to dwell much on past mistakes. Being defensive means you are not solution-oriented, and such tone saps peoples' strength, he said. "You're not supposed to be defensive, you are supposed to be [on the] offensive, the spearhead, showing the way to go by example." Over time, the church's key phrases (e.g., "spirit of Indianapolis," "a Godly community") have become diluted, are now irrelevant to the membership and have even been used as a club over others, he said.
While we need to develop our own terminology, we should stay away from abstractions that anybody else in the world with any religious affiliation would also be comfortable using. To turn around these tendencies, he advised a three-part solution: £ Decide on the key messages that need to be communicated. This decision is clarified by asking, "What issues are most important to the UCG?" and "How can these issues be better expressed?" £ Be better aware of and consistently address two key issues: a lingering sense of betrayal and burnout £ Develop a new mindset that is truly forward-looking and de-emphasizes recent history ("You're not selling ancient history," he said. "Have you had anyone baptized in the last year? What do they care about 1986? Are they more into first love or digging up things to find out how bad it was?")
Regarding the second point, Mr. Snyder noted that betrayal causes emotional wounds that require a long healing process and those wounds are easily re-opened (which builds cynicism). It also means re-commitment to another organization is much harder to achieve and sustain and that exiting an organization is much easier the second time than it was the first. These reactions are paralleled in other damaging circumstances in life. For example, following a first divorce, second marriages are less likely to succeed because mates are much less willing to the endure pain of emotional trauma again. Divorces are rarely truly "amicable" there are major feelings of loss mixed with partial relief and an intense fear of making the same mistakes again. Furthermore, the first divorce severely drains emotional and personal energy and the divorced mate now has a much better idea of a future "exit strategy." He also noted, "Burnout is something you have to face both personally and as an organization." This is common in many institutions in modern society, and is caused by overwork and lack of "sharpening the saw," physical and mental exhaustion, perceived non-appreciation of efforts and confused personal goals (or perceiving a major disconnection between personal and organizational goals).
Suggestions for improving communication After analyzing one example of communication to the church (the April 2, 1998 member letter), Mr. Snyder offered several observations for making improvements. First, he confirmed that it is usually constructive to acknowledge conflict. Such acknowledgment promotes open honesty, shows that the leadership is sensitive, listening and willing to act and is congruent with the stated UCG objective of defending the faith. Conflict, he pointed out, is not always bad and within a certain context it can indicate a healthy condition. For example, total lack of conflict indicates mind-control and/or a de-energized, non-thinking group.
Moderate conflict in a spirit of achieving solutions promotes better thinking, sharper and better results. However, high conflict indicates problems with vision and purpose (and sometimes just the wrong people in the wrong jobs).
Second, develop a new view of success, he advised. "Look forward, not backward." Historically, the Radio Church of God that formed out of the Church of God, 7th Day, was "a true splinter that made it" because it became a visionary organization. Next, identify your one key message and make sure it is embraced and cherished at all levels.
Finally, leaders must "over-communicate" in times of crises. To implement these points, it is important to "start at zero," he said. That means looking in fresh ways at communication and asking, "because we communicated one way in the past, is it still the best way?" Talk to the individual, build the relationships between people. Defining your own "brand" Being proactive in leading and communicating is critically important, Mr. Snyder stressed, because of this rule: If you don't manage your reputation, someone else will! To draw a parallel, he said that in business terminology the United Church of God is a "brand." In other words, people identify certain things with UCG, as they do with other church organizations. Your "brand" is important because it identifies you or your group by defining a promise or perception of consistently fulfilled promises. We should ask ourselves, either as an individual or as a group, "What is it that my service does that is different? Why is it good? What am I known for? Whatever you answer, if the answer doesn't grab you, you've got a big problem."
The five bases of power
Mr. Snyder then identified five different types of power bases from which leaders operate:
Coercive power this environment forces people to comply and is fear-based; an example of a church equivalent is the threat of disfellowshipping
Reward power people comply because they are motivated by some type of reward
Legitimate power people believe they should comply because of a legitimate leadership role or position
Referent power people comply because they respect and admire the leader
Expert power people comply because they think you know what you are talking about; leaders because they are recognized as experts Obviously, the style of leadership will affect the identification or "brand" of the organization. "The brand that you are is something people will either reject or reflect," Mr. Snyder concluded.
Ignite the world
He ended by listing four fundamental questions that need to be answered to develop "the brand called the United Church of God."
1. Who is the United Church of God?
2. Who do you serve?
3. What are your members and audience looking for?
4. How do you position yourself? "
You have to decide what you want to be known for, and it has to be different from other people. If you do that, and you communicate it, and you live it, then you will ignite the world."
In the remaining time the Council engaged in a wide-ranging question/answer session with Mr. Snyder before adjourning at 5:00 PM. Resources recommended by Mr. Snyder Adversity Quotient, by Paul G. Stoltz Selling the Invisible, by Harry Beckwith Leadership When the Heat's On, by Danny Cox Preventing Chaos in a Crisis, by Patrick Lagadec Credibility, by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner Built to Last, by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras
- Clyde Kilough
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