How to Use One Story For All of Your Marketing

How to Use One Story For All of Your Marketing

Eric Hungerford | August 16, 2020 | Church Marketing marketing marketing web media Social Media

Marketing Sucks

Most of us who care about people hate marketing. I hate marketing too. Most of it.

A New Definition

What if we redefine “marketing” like this:

  • A conversation between the heart of an organization and the hearts of the people they’re connecting with

In other words,

  •  a bridge from one authentic identity to another

The above definitions sound so kind, it almost feels wrong to call it “marketing.”

Your Story Builds the Bridge

With all the buzz in the marketing world about storytelling, you won’t be surprised to learn that this communication bridge happens to be a simple story. 

The Clarity of Simplicity

Welcome to your one story. Build the communication bridge with a handful of short paragraphs, which we call your Core Story. 

Use your Core Story over and over. Repeat, retool, retrofit, augment, and reuse your Core Story. If you haven’t repeated it a thousand times, maybe you haven’t used it enough.

Most marketing sucks. And not only because  it’s annoying, intrusive, noisy, and ugly. Most marketing falls short of effectiveness. Most of it fails the empathy test.

Are you Part of the Noise?

Empathize with your audience for a moment. How many messages do they receive in a day? How could they possibly garner the energy to care about your story? Most marketing hits the protective filter of the mind, bounces off, and fades into the void of “noise” forever. The social media platforms don’t care. You paid them. Your audience doesn’t care. They’ve already forgotten about you.

It May be Simpler Than You Think

It turns out, you need a small handful of “must-haves.” Think “communication formula.” If any part of the recipe is missing, your message fails. Check out the Communication Triangle for the simplest, most memorable version of the must-haves for effective communication. Let it soak into your thinking, and your marketing can change forever. Not only that, your relationships can transform for the better.

Future Church: A Case Study

Ok, back to your Core Story. Enough talk. Let’s dive into an example. Then I’ll break down the recipe for you.

Core Story Example: Future Church (Arlington, VA)

Honestly, we know exactly what it feels like—to feel lost. Dark clouds fill your mind. You don’t know where to go, with no sight of a sign or map.

“I got this,” you say. “I’ll find my way.” No one else seems to understand, and it’s lonely, if you’re honest. But you find some upward trajectory, and you make some moves—progress in your education, fitness, or career.

“But where is it all going? Where am I going?” you ask. You thought your plans were going to give you everything you needed, and help you give the world what the world needs, but now you’re not so sure.

What if the missing piece of your brightest future is the very one who created you? 

You are invited.

We’re not like others who think they have your life figured out before they even know you. But we believe that God himself is the one who knows the plans he has for you. As you get to know him more, he will shine light on your path, and brightness and life will pour into your world and overcome the cloud of darkness.

Come as you are. You get to start small. Even though beginnings often seem humble, your future will prosper in abundance. It starts with a simple visit, either online, or in person. You’ll belong even if you don’t believe like we believe. And you won’t need to leave your intellect behind.

Before you know it, not only will you find the wholeness of genuine community, but you will get to experience the joy of making life better for others as you help pave the way for a brighter future.

Know God’s plans. Start small. Pave the way.

You’re invited to Future Church.

The Recipe

Here are your must-have ingredients for your Core Story:

  1. Communicate with empathy. Know the fears and hopes of the people in your audience.
  2. Open with a statement that generates intrigue.
  3. Bring your audience into the negative feelings of the antithesis of your Big Idea.
  4. Then, bring your audience into the positive feelings of your Big Idea.
  5. Finally, share your Big Idea and end with the invitation. 

I’m describing one Core Story format that works. This isn’t the end-all-be-all. But if you start here, it won’t be long before you’re off to the races with a winning story that connects to real people.

Communicate With Empathy

Though it is counterintuitive, the Core Story of your church or organization must not be about you. First-and-foremost, it is about the individual with whom you are speaking. 

To borrow from Donald Miller’s Story Brand principles, imagine that the person to whom you are speaking is a protagonist on a hero’s journey who is not yet fully equipped to fulfill their purpose in the world. Now imagine that your organization steps in as the helpful guide with a plan.

In the above example, the audience is young professionals living in Washington, D.C. Pastor Josue shared some valuable insight about the people he’s connecting with. Many of them would not normally go to church, but are willing to do so, just to be a part of something. They’ve moved far away from their families and friends, and they’re trying to prove themselves and make their way. The result? They’re lonely and isolated. This piece of data helps us to understand and communicate with empathy. 

We worked with other bits of data about Josue’s audience to ensure we could empathize with them and connect with them. 

Otherwise, we would have just been part of the noise.

Open With a Statement That Generates Intrigue

You may want to kick off your story with a problem. Or you may want to begin on a positive note. Either way, make sure it’s intriguing. Here are some ways you can generate intrigue:

  • A relatable problem
  • An element of mystery (ask a question that you don’t yet provide the answer to)
  • A compelling vision of a better future

Bring Your Audience Into the Antithesis of Your Big Idea

In general, the most effective way to capture someone’s attention is to tell a story about a character who has a problem. Think about any movie ever. The main character always has a problem. As we allow our attention to be sucked into the character’s plight, we are wired to desire the experience of the resolution of this problem.

In the case of Core Stories, the “character” is not external to the audience. Instead, the character is the person to whom you’re speaking. He or she is the main character in this story.

So what is the “antithesis of your Big Idea?” (To borrow from Don Miller again), it is the internal, external, and philosophical feelings that your character faces as a result of not being a part of what you have to offer. Your “Big Idea” is the part of your message which drives the culture of your church. For some, this may be Core Values. Others? Their Mission Statement or Vision Statement.

For Pastor Josue of Future Church, his big idea is this statement, which you can find at the very end of his Core Story:

Know God’s plans. Start small. Pave the way.

So, to write the build up to the Big Idea of the story (the antithesis), we asked ourselves, “what does the opposite of this Big Idea look like? Then, what does it feel like?”

What is the opposite of knowing God’s plans? Not knowing them. But what can that feel like? It can feel pretty lonely. Remember the fears and hopes of the people in the audience? Bingo. We have what we need to describe the antithesis of Josue’s Big Idea. We articulated this at the beginning of the Future Church Core Story:

Honestly, we know exactly what it feels like—to feel lost. Dark clouds fill your mind. You don’t know where to go, with no sight of a sign or map.

What about the next part of the Big Idea? “Start small.” What’s the opposite of starting small? Overcommitting? Biting off more than you can chew? Throwing your life away for something different? The feelings one might feel about the above ideas are scary and relatable. For the Future Church Core Story, we chose to focus on the feelings of uncertain progress in the next Core Story paragraph:

“I got this,” you say. “I’ll find my way.” No one else seems to understand, and it’s lonely, if you’re honest. But you find some upward trajectory, and you make some moves—progress in your education, fitness, or career.

Finally, the last part of the Future Church “Big Idea” is “Pave the Way.” Perhaps the opposite of paving the way for others is not knowing where you yourself are going. That’s where we focused our attention for the “antithesis” part of the Core Story:

“But where is it all going? Where am I going?” you ask. You thought your plans were going to give you everything you needed, and help you give the world what the world needs, but now you’re not so sure.

And that wraps up the first part of the Future Church Core Story. Now let’s shift the mood.

Bring Your Audience Into the Positive Feelings of Your Big Idea

For many of the Core Stories we write, you’ll find a point of transition in the middle. This is where we transition from the antithesis into the good feelings of the thesis, or the Big Idea. 

Here’s how we handled the transitional statement for Future Church:

What if the missing piece of your brightest future is the very one who created you? 

You are invited.

Here, we leave a bit of mystery hanging in the air. We briefly reference a suggestion about God, the creator, in the form of a question. The question is key. Questions are more gentle than truth claims. It helps to position Future Church as a helpful guide, rather than a religious know-it-all. Then, once we have planted the seed of possibility, we shift into “you are invited.” What we do next helps paint the picture of what the audience is being invited into, which happens to also be the feelings of the Big Idea. Here’s what we say next, to paint the picture of “knowing God’s plans, starting small, and paving the way

We’re not like others who think they have your life figured out before they even know you. But we believe that God himself is the one who knows the plans he has for you. As you get to know him more, he will shine light on your path, and brightness and life will pour into your world and overcome the cloud of darkness.

Come as you are. You get to start small. Even though beginnings often seem humble, your future will prosper in abundance. It starts with a simple visit, either online, or in person. You’ll belong even if you don’t believe like we believe. And you won’t need to leave your intellect behind.

Before you know it, not only will you find the wholeness of genuine community, but you will get to experience the joy of making life better for others as you help pave the way for a brighter future.

Do you see the pattern? In this case, we composed one paragraph for every part of Pastor Josue’s Big Idea. That leaves the very last piece of the Core Story.

Share Your Big Idea and Invite

Know God’s plans. Start small. Pave the way.

You’re invited to Future Church.

That’s it. The end. Or hopefully, the beginning of a new relationship. The Big Idea becomes the most natural and compelling thing to say, because of the careful setup we’ve created for the buildup to this point. 

This format will serve you well, but it’s not the only way. You can take the ingredients and change the order. Change the flavor based on what you know about the people you are reaching. Just make sure all of the pieces are there, and make it your own. 

Once you have your story, what do you do next?

Use Your Story for All of Your Marketing

Let’s start with our favorite and most powerful use of a Core Story: your church’s welcome video. Radiant Bible Church in Avon, India created one using an ArtSpeak Core Story script along with their newly styled brand, and it worked beautifully. View the video here.

What about a social media post? How can you use your Core Story for that? 

One possibility might be to split your story into a series of ten posts and use it as a carousel for Instagram. 

Another option could be to grab a singular statement, design it, and post it. Here’s one that could work from the Future Church Core Story: 

“Come as you are. You get to start small.”

So, design a graphic with the above statement, and expand on the idea in the description.

One church we worked with had us create a motion graphic video for their lobby. We broke down their Core Story into a series of statements, which we paired with photos of people in their church. This video plays on the screens, and members and guests are immediately immersed into the heartbeat and message of their church.

The uses of your Core Story are as endless as the communication mediums you use to reach people. Video. Social Media. Your site. Campaigns. Message series. You name it. Once you have your story, you have what you need to cut through the noise and connect with the people who are ready to take the next step.

Want to talk more about your Core Story? A free consultation will help you answer your questions and gain the clarity you need to reach more people.

Fill out the form at the bottom of the page, and we’ll schedule an appointment.