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Publicity for pennies!

SUMMARY: In our current economy, everyone is tightening their  belts and trimming expenses. For many churches, the first budget line item to cut is marketing and publicity. 

Why? Many think it’s an unnecessary expense and count on the church’s outdoor sign to do the work. Before you slash the marketing and publicity budget, let’s look at creative ways you can get your church’s name out in public for less than $90 a month!

 Alex Trebek: “Answer: Its first publication was ‘Acta Diurna’ in Rome in 59 B.C.”

1. Contact the features editor of your local newspaper to alert them to your church’s special events. Maybe they would like to do a special feature on your pastor. Feature editors love getting tips. It makes their job easier (trust me – I was one in college). Tell them about a special music event, speaker, anniversary homecoming or fundraiser your church is having. Cost?  $0.

2. Check out your local newspaper’s church directory, typically published in the Saturday or weekend edition. Make sure to list your church with correct contact information, address and Web site addresses. Cost? $0

3. In a local newspaper, a good advertisement of two column inches by two column inches should run about $600 for multiple insertions, including the graphic design. Use this prime location to feature your church. Highlight a special event, invite singles to a new Bible study or publicize your church preschool program. Make sure you have adequate contact information. Cost? Approximately $600 total or $50 per month.

Grand Total for Newspaper Publicity - $50 per month

Roger that?

1. Be a guest on your local Christian radio station. Do you have an upcoming event, mission project, special service, speaker or fundraiser? Call the station and volunteer to come to the studio to talk about it (and your church!) for 5-10 minutes one morning. Cost? You might have to set the alarm a bit early, but it’s free!

2. Does your church have an outstanding band that plays during worship? Contact the station and request to play – at no cost – for airtime. Cost? $0

If you have the capability, place a 30-second spot during Advent and Lent inviting people to your church services. Cost for this varies greatly.

Grand Total for Radio Publicity - $0

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a “flier” saucer!

1. Make sure your flier is well written and designed. This way the recipient can read it (Don’t put it in 6-point type!), understand the call to action, and either act on it or save the information for later.

2. Before hitting the streets, research where masses of people will be in your local area and whether the desired demographic is there. 

3. When distributing fliers in public, don’t sabotage your efforts by asking, “Would you like one of these?” If a stranger on the street asked you that, what would you say? Exactly – you’d say “No.” Instead, ask, “Did you get one of these?” Most people will be honest, reply “no” and take one just in case. You have then planted a seed for your church.

4. Use public-access boards in your supermarket, mass retailer, library and restaurants. However, play it smart and ask for permission to post your flier on the board.

5. Stay legal. Handbill laws in some states prohibit placing fliers on car windshields and in mailboxes (when not delivered through the U.S. Postal Service). Check out the handbill laws in your area.

With the cost duplicating fliers in black and white as little as 5 cents a sheet, handing out 500 fliers for an event is an investment of $25. It’s not necessary to advertise in color for every event – especially on fliers. Printing on brightly colored paper is one option. However, it would be a wise investment to use color printing for fliers displayed on bulletin boards so that they stand out. Set aside $10 a month for color printing. This way, you can get the most bang for your “flier” buck.

Grand Total for Flier Publicity - $35/month or event

Go online – everyone’s doing it. You know you want to.

1. Facebook, oh how we love thee. This is a top-notch social media site with more than 350 million users, probably including many of your churchgoers. Read this article for more information on using this tool effectively. Cost? $0

2. Eventful.com is a little-known Web site you need to know about! Set up events, track registrants, invite hundreds of local people and make your event the talk of the town. Cost? $0

3. Search Engine Marketing can promote your local church Web site by increasing its visibility in search-engine result pages. Click on this article to learn more about this tool. Likewise, Google can also help your online marketing. Here is an excellent article on how to use Google. Cost? $0

Grand Total for Online Marketing - $0

Grand Total for Publicity - $85/month!

Take these ideas to the finance committee, and put a stay of execution on the publicity/marketing line item of the budget! For pennies, you CAN make your church known!

--Tracy Wood is product marketing manager of TechShop, which offers discounted software and hardware to United Methodist churches and organizations. From thrift store finds to Goodwill bargains, Tracy is an avid penny pincher!