Digital Thinking by Phil Cooke [Guest Post]

Digital Thinking by Phil Cooke [Guest Post]

“The digital revolution is far more significant than the invention of writing or even of printing.”
—Douglas Engelbart

It’s no secret that reaching a congregation, community, or media audience in today’s distracted and disrupted world is a real challenge. Although we have more channels for reaching them than ever before, those very channels slice up the audience, making it more difficult than ever to actually connect.

Phil Cooke is a filmmaker, media consultant, and founder of Cooke Media Group.

It all starts with strategy, which is the art of discovering what sets you apart and who would care most about your message, cause, or story. Today it takes more than someone with a video camera, a social media director, or a graphic designer to communicate your message. Before any of those team members start working, it’s critical to find the answer to “why,” and that is a leader’s job.

It’s been said that any soldier can take the hill, but a leader knows which hill to take and why it needs to be taken in the first place. Far too many churches allow the big picture decision making to be made by other members of the staff. In a large church or ministry with an experienced, high level communication or media team, that can be a good thing, but with less experienced members it could be a disaster. And in either case, it should never happen without the input and insight from the pastor or ministry leader.

The Big Picture Matters

Whatever you do in media—build a website, produce a video, launch a marketing campaign, publish a book, or whatever—understand that each of those elements are part of a much bigger story and strategy. In today’s distracted world, where people are being overwhelmed with communication and media messages, anything you create has to be part of a bigger, multi-platform strategy to maximize those opportunities.

Talented video, social media, and communication teams with brilliant ideas are a great start, but until they understand the bigger strategy of how to reach your audience, you’ll never make an impact. It’s been said that if you want to know which road to take, it helps to first know where you’re going.

Think Before You Produce.

Ask the “why” before you explore the “how.”

Then, once we define your why, we bring that to life with messaging— clarifying exactly what your message or story should be at this moment. Oddly enough, most of our clients try to communicate too much—largely because they’re thinking of themselves, and not the audience they want to reach.

In a cluttered world, simplicity and clarity are what get people’s attention.

Certainly many organizations and visionary leaders have much to share, but in today’s hypercompetitive world, most people respond to too much information by shutting down and turning off. So it’s essential that we streamline the message and focus on what matters from the audience’s perspective.

Speaking of clutter, identity development is a key step in our process since “perception” is so important in a distracted world. We’ll discuss branding and positioning in a later section, but it’s important to know how sensitive perceptions are in a distracted world. Positioning is essential to help your message rise above the noise because it focuses on what your audience thinks, what they need, and how you fit into their lives. This goes beyond your brand and is often overlooked by many organizations.

Finally, deciding how to share your ministry or organization’s message is vital, via social media, short video production, broadcast radio or TV, movie, live events, blogging, podcasting, live streaming and more.

It’s not how you want to reach them, it’s how they want to reach you.

There’s no point in creating the best podcast ever produced if your audience is somewhere else. That’s why finding the right platforms are so important for connecting with your audience.

These steps aren’t designed to overwhelm you or make you think that engaging media is too complex or difficult. My purpose is to remind you that a high school kid with a video camera isn’t enough. A talented graphic designer isn’t enough. Even a well-intentioned communication director isn’t enough—if you haven’t spent time thinking about the bigger picture.

These days, a great number of leaders and teams recognize the power of media, but don’t understand the best way to leverage that power. There was a time when sharing a message meant standing on a soapbox and talking to people passing by, preaching in a pulpit, or printing a book or newspaper. But today with an almost endless number of media options, making the right decision about the what, when, where, how, and why of your message can be the difference between success and failure.

The stakes are high, and your message matters. Choose carefully.

To hear more from Phil Cooke, register for the Digital Ministry Webinar on Thursday, October 1, 2020 at 2 pm ET.

Phil Cooke has produced TV and film programming in more than 60 countries around the world, and in the process, been shot at, survived two military coups, fallen out of a helicopter, and in Africa, been threatened with prison. And during that time – through his company Cooke Media Group in Los Angeles, California – he’s helped some of the largest Christian and nonprofit organizations in the world use the media to tell their story in a changing, disrupted culture. This post is an excerpt from Maximize Your Influence: How to Make Digital Media Work for Your Church, Your Ministry, and You by Phil Cooke (Burbank CA: Cooke Media Group, 2020, pages 19-22). All of the proceeds from this book go to The Innovation Lab.