Storytelling is the magic that turns facts into emotional connections. It is a powerful tool to convey messages on your digital properties. The church primarily thinks of testimonies when it comes to storytelling. Gathering stories is a great start. But how can you most effectively integrate them into an existing church website? What purpose do those stories have? And how can you get more?
Hearing how Kelvin Co used storytelling at The Oaks Fellowship church inspired me to dig deeper. I highly suggest listening to the podcast that inspired this article. Kelvin has done an amazing job at adding stories to his church's website. They use these emotional connections to really draw people in. It was a strategic decision that I hope has paid off with increased attendance and participation. Instead of repeating the importance of stories, I want to focus on some "how-to" points. These should be especially helpful if you already have an existing website. As adding new features to a site can be cumbersome.
Whenever you add something to an existing site, it runs the risk of feeling simply glued on. Just adding a story to the top of a page may seem artificial. This is especially true if you still have content below that also attempts to welcome you to that page. Rely on your story to do its job and remove content that has the same goal. Audit the other content along your various conversion paths. See where you can remove empty welcome messages. Replace them with more effective stories. When you finish, update your content strategy documents. This may mean removing content previously provided by ministry leaders or pastors. They may be attached to that content. So be sure to measure conversion rates before and after adding the stories.
In the previous scenario, I alluded to adding a story to a particular ministry's page. The problem is that those stories were probably given to you through various means. They ended up as text documents in a cloud-based app like Google Docs or Evernote. What you need is a way to sort and organize those stories. There are two major aspects you should consider. The first is the easiest. What ministry could benefit most from the story? The second aspect is the intent. What is the purpose behind the content? Like my article on social media content types, stories have an angle. They motivate, persuade, encourage engagement, and many others. Explore which intents work best in each ministry through analytics and conversion rates.
The last hurdle in adding stories to your site is getting more. After time, your stories will get "stale". After visitors have read them once or twice, and they lose their impact. This means a steady stream of stories should flow into your church. The obvious answer is to use a submission form on your website. Yet website visitors are not your only source. Direct social media users to those forms. I claimed in another article that you should never have a dead end on your site. Asking someone to submit a story is a great follow-on to their signing up for an event. Lastly, ask users on email lists to talk about their experiences after an event. The end result should be a steady stream of stories for you to use.
The sequence of events should be clear. First, determine where your stories live on your website. Second, create buckets for those stories to wait while you put them on your site. Third, create channels to request more stories over time. Last, check out the entire podcast series that Brady Shearer puts together. This episode on storytelling was one of many great shows. Now that you are inspired to produce some amazing results, get started!
This article was inspired by the Pro Church Tools podcast episode Church Marketing Through Storytelling with Kelvin Co
Photograph courtesy of Michael Faes