Achieve Your Digital Goals
I remember it so vividly. I had no clue what I was going to post next week, no idea what stories were being written and, honestly, I just hoped our audience members would think our layout looked cool — not a thought in the world as to how they would proceed after reading any of our content.
Wow. What a world to live in, and what a disservice to the readers of our websites and social pages.
In fact, it took us stepping back from the day-to-day and creating a digital vision to see beyond the individual post to the greater purpose of why we do digital and the value we wanted to bring to every reader that encounters Cru.
No matter the size of your team, defining an overall digital vision and then actually doing the work to achieve it might seem impossible if not laughable. However, creating clear, strategic goals is closer than you may think.
It wasn’t long ago that digital strategies at Cru were a body of siloed islands, each ministry and division doing its own thing. At times, we could even pinpoint when we were cannibalizing one another's work and dollars spent. But through intentional conversations, research and collaborative planning, all of that changed.
Working to create a digital vision for your ministry may seem far-fetched, but every ministry, every organization and every business has goals. Once you know those goals, a digital vision is not that far away.
The start of excelling in digital begins with identifying top-level goals for your organization...
The start of excelling in digital begins with identifying top-level goals for your organization, which can be internal or external goals. It’s important in this moment to look at where you are and create realistic goals. They can be challenging but make sure they are also achievable.
For example, your ministry wants to engage more people in learning how to share their faith but they have also stated that they want to see more women in leadership. Take that information, and with your leaders and existing benchmarks, make a determination for some faith goals for your digital spaces. For this, we at Cru would say something like, “We want to see one million people engaged monthly this year on our digital platforms, and we want to equip more women to be empowered to lead in digital spaces.”
Once you have those goals stated, you can start to dive deeper into how to make those ideas a reality. It could look like more lead generation, identifying and cultivating potential users’ information, to track those who are downloading your evangelism tools or workshops designed for women in your ministry to equip them in their digital work. It all starts with knowing where your ministry wants to go and determining how digital can partner with those goals.
Within Cru, our Communications and Marketing teams are separate but interdependent functions. Regardless of how your organization is structured, the value of working together will maximize creating content that meets audience needs by delivering content in the most appropriate ways for the target audience. That partnership also will ensure that those interested in your message will have opportunities to engage more deeply with your organization.
Building off your established goals, the key is to get into the mindset of the exact persona that you intend to serve. At Cru, we use audience persona templates to outline the attributes for each audience we hope to serve.
Once you have your mix of personas, you have the opportunity to use data and research to gain a fuller understanding of the current reality of serving those audiences. Research categories can include:
- Industry trends
- Keyword research
- Competitor analysis
- Search engine data
- Channel analytics
- Audience focus groups
Finally, prior to beginning any content planning, you can ask each individual involved in the digital vision to “claim” a persona as decisions are made. As team members fully immerse themselves (like characters in a story) using the data and research to reach the goals and vision for each persona, you ensure that each audience is equally represented.
One of the biggest challenges we had in Cru was unintentionally working against one another.
One of the biggest challenges we had in Cru was unintentionally working against one another. Each ministry had its own plan, marketing ideas and ways to go about engaging with its audiences. However, what that looked like to outsiders was an overall ministry that didn’t talk or work with one another.
In 2018, we began a new practice of bringing together all ministry stakeholders across each part of Cru — our humanitarian arm, athletic ministry, campus ministry, fund development, you name it and they were invited — to come together for a three-day workshop where we, together, would create a year-long plan for content. This is known as our Narrative Workshop.
Participants were grouped together to go through exercises that narrowed down the primary story and themes for the coming year. For example, “Once upon a time, people were on their journey of life, over-connected yet feeling alone along the way. And every day they searched for their next step until they found a guide. Until one day they developed relationships and felt more confident to take their next best step toward Jesus.” There it is. That’s the narrative for the year!
Once you have your high-level story, you can then take a few minutes per sentence to brainstorm topics and themes that would ladder up to your narrative story. When you’ve finished, you now have ideas for the full year on what and how to talk about your story. The only thing left is content!
Keys to Success
- Audit existing content to understand your gaps for creating new content.
- If something isn’t quite right, update before archiving.
- Content should be written at a sixth-grade reading level so all readers are able to digest your content.
- Avoid using “Christanese” or “Cru-isms” so even someone new to the faith understands what you’re saying.
- Know that breaking news and necessary pivots happen; it’s OK to be flexible.
Using a few of these principles and sharing them with others is the beginning of your Content Development Guide, a way to share with your ministry how to create, edit and audit content for your audiences so that you have a continual refinement of what you are sharing and consistency in how audience members are experiencing your digital platforms.
It All Comes Together
At this point, you have identified your goals, reviewed data to get in the mindset of your audiences, followed the Narrative Workshop principles to organize the story you want to tell and applied some simple keys to success. You are flying high, believing you can overcome the daunting challenge of coordinating a digital vision. So, how do you go from planning to execution?
At Cru, we’ve found that this is the perfect moment to bring everyone together to plot out the journey that we plan to take our audiences through, within the story we plan to tell.
You’ll want to assemble your content developers, your creative team (design, video, audio, etc.), your distribution channel owners, and any other marketing or communications members that can help outline the annual digital strategy.
Using whiteboards, sticky notes or other collaboration tools, you will want to chart out all of the different paths that your audience may be able to take to access, consume and engage with your content narrative.
For each of these “journeys,” the key will be to identify how the user gets to the ultimate destination that represents the top-level goal that you previously outlined.
With all of this in place, you are now ready to apply the plan. We recommend monthly check-ins to review how the narrative is working relative to your goals. This will help you strategically adjust your annual content calendar to aid your audience as they journey through your narrative.
Where We Are Today
Today, we at Cru are now living in the reality that every post, story and step should bring our audiences at least one step closer to Christ. But it wasn’t easy getting there.
We’re still actively learning and growing how we engage with our audiences with more data, research and cross-department, cross-ministry efforts.
It is not always easy, but the value that we can give each person who comes to our digital spaces makes each meeting and test well worth the time and effort. We pray that your ministry can be served with this information, and that maybe one day we’ll find your digital journey!
Angel Barrett has worked with Cru for eight years and currently serves as the U.S. director of communications. Kevin Geiss has worked with Cru for 16 years and currently serves as the director of marketing within Cru Digital Strategies. Cru’s purpose is helping to fulfill the Great Commission in the power of the Holy Spirit by helping people meet Jesus, building them in their faith and sending them to be multiplying disciples. Be sure to join Cru this coming March at the Outcomes Conference for their presentation on Building the Journey. Visit Cru.org anytime to explore content created to help you take your next step with Jesus.