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Advertising 201

By Tracy Wood

SUMMARY: Now that we've covered creating a radio advertisement, let's focus on effective newspaper advertising. This may sound simple.

Just call the newspaper and tell them what you want the ad to say, right? Well, you could. However, you should consider other issues before picking up the phone.

  1. Is newspaper advertising right for you?
    What medium does your primary target use? Is the distribution of you local newspaper large enough to have a reasonable Return on Investment? Does the majority of your audience rely on the newspaper, radio, television or Web? Remember: you may need to target more than one medium. Again, experts have refuted the 1930s "magic bullet theory" that suggested the mass media could influence a large group of people directly and uniformly by "shooting" them with appropriate message designed to trigger a desired response.

  2. Can we afford to advertise?
    Advertisements in the New York Times can run upwards of $600 for one day! Many local newspapers only charge $100 or so for an advertisement. Bigger isn't always better. You want your advertisement to stand out, but advertising for local church services doesn't require a full-page advertisement.

    If your budget doesn't allow for paid advertisements, try some free public relations. Is your church planning a special concert or a new program? Pen a press release for publication in the religion section of the paper or put in a tip to the features editor that you have an event worth covering. These two options can get media attention to your local church for little or no cost.

  3. What should I put in the advertisement?
    First, determine the purpose of the advertisement. Are you looking to attract seekers, inform the community about your services or highlight a specific program? Each of these advertisements has different purposes. Remember, there is no magic bullet. Pinpoint exactly what you want to accomplish.

    If it is for a church seeker, you will want to include your address, phone number and, most importantly, your Web address. After all, the best-designed advertisement without contact information is useless. You also should include a welcoming message with plenty of "you" statements.

    If it is to promote your local church services, include the most common service times – such as 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. Don't include every single service you have. Lead people to your Web site to get more information. Be sure to include your contact information so if people have questions, they can get in touch with you. (Who uses a phone book anymore?)

If the purpose is to highlight a special Easter program, be sure to include the name of the production, times of performance and your contact information. Especially critical is the location if it is not at your church (at a local theatre, for example).

Consider the length of text. It's critical not to overload your advertisement with nine bullet points of information. Keep the message as concise as possible. Remember the old saying, "Short, sweet and to the point." Provide enough information to inform readers, but don't satiate them to where they don't need to come to your church.

Should I include graphics? If your advertisement is small (one column), a graphic isn't needed. It will merely clutter the space. However, if the advertisement is two columns or larger, having an appropriate graphic is acceptable. Use a photo of your church or a religious graphic. Don't mislead your viewers with a graphic that doesn't apply to your advertisement.

Where can I find a template – preferably for free? Did you know that Google AdWords has a free template guide that allows you to create your own print advertisement? MyMarketingGuide.com also offers templates with your free registration. Alternately, Igniting Ministry offers free downloadable, pre-designed advertisements as well as some you can customize for your church.

If you need additional help, feel free to contact me. I'll be happy to help you on the road to a successful ad campaign. Remember to keep your advertisement simple, appealing and informative.

--Tracy Wood, Web coordinator, Strategic Marketing and Research Team, United Methodist Communications, is full-time Web geek, part-time comedian.