How well do you know your audience? Do you know their names? Their likes and dislikes? Do you know their families? If I had to guess, I'd say that you have a pretty good idea of your ideal listener's personality, preferences and practices. But that's only part of the picture ... because communication – at its most basic – is this: sending a message to a receiver and dealing with the interference between the two.
When it comes to communicating with your listeners, what things interfere with your message? What cultural roadblocks stand in the way of someone hearing your words and clearly understanding your intention?
Here are three cultural realities that affect our listeners and our message. (Source: 17 Striking Findings from 2017, Pew Research Center, 12/26/17)
1) There is a real – and growing – political divide in America. Since 1994, the “gap” between Republicans and Democrats has more than doubled. Today, our views have so polarized, that political opinions are tearing apart relationships.
What does this mean for you as a Christian communicator? Our audience consists of a wide spectrum of opinions and values – even among those in the same political parties. This means that it is more important than ever to speak the truth in love and be a catalyst that unites our brothers and sisters in Christ. It also means that we may need to spend more time researching issues and growing in our knowledge of God's Word in order to know the truth and share it in a way that reflects Jesus Christ.
2) Media is distrusted and divisive. The Pew Research Center shows that our political affiliation determines how people see the media's role. Are we “watchdogs” who hold our leaders accountable? Are we too permissive? Or … are we something different?
What does this mean for you as a Christian communicator? You and I are “the media.” We need to be clear in our intentions and consistent in our words and deeds. We also need to determine if we are more than a music format, and how we help shape our communities.
” The numbers of single or never-wed Americans is rising. According to Pew Research, nearly 6-in-10 Americans under age 35 are living without a spouse or partner.
What does this mean for you as a Christian communicator? God designed families. His plan for us is to live in fellowship with others. He describes our relationship with Christ as that of a bride and groom. God places the lonely in families. How do we describe this kind of relationship to those who have never experienced it? What words and ideas do we use to invite others in to God's family?
The answers to these questions will differ according to markets and audiences, but the challenge is the same: Our goal in 2018 is to study our audience and work to overcome the cultural roadblocks that interfere listeners hearing and understanding the life-giving message of Jesus Christ.
As you're getting back to “normal” after the holidays, here's a list of topics to help you start your daily prep, blog posts and social media comments. As you look through the list, be sure to ask, “What is the most important thing my audience wants to hear/read/talk about today?”
• How to keep your new year's resolutions
• How to create new habits/routines in the new year
• How to help your kids get back into the school routine after the holidays
• How to be healthy in 2018 (Interview a fitness instructor or life coach)
• How to clean your closet, organize your clothes and throw out stuff you don't need
• Talk about resolutions: What will you do in the new year? What will you NOT do? (Keep this light and fun)
• Unusual resolutions: Everyone plans to lose weight, exercise more, wake up early … and then there's that one goal that's a bit out of the ordinary. What is your unusual goal?
• What's on your 2018 Bucket List?
• What is one thing you'd like to do with/for your kids/grandkids in 2018? How will you do it?
• January 6 – Epiphany
• January 15 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
• January 18 – Winnie the Pooh Day (the birthday of A.A. Milne, creator of Winnie the Pooh) Read or share a few Winnie the Pooh memories, quotes or stories. This could also be a fun online/social media post.
• January 28 – National Kazoo Day – Play a few current hits on the kazoo. Or invite listeners to participate. Maybe...
• Organization: Share articles and tips about home organization. Invite users to share their ideas and organizing secrets.
• How to beat the post-holiday blahs.
• How to manage your finances in 2018. (Share ideas from a local financial planner or connect with one of the large ministries that deal with finances.)
Again, as you consider these – and many other topics – always remember to ask “What is the most important thing my audience wants to talk about today?”
Happy New Year!
Bill Arbuckle CMW
My work desk – the one in my home office – is cluttered. It's covered in old books, Moleskine journals, a telegraph key, speakers, an M-Audio interface for recording, loose change, action figures … and rocks. Cool-looking rocks. A fossilized ammonite shell takes up a one corner of the desktop. Two chunks of feldspar crystals sit atop the hutch. A couple more chunks of calcite crystals sit to the right – just under the desk lamp. Add in some glass jars full of polished brown jasper, tumbled quartz and a thumb-sized piece of a meteorite, and, well, that's my work environment.
Why all the rocks? I've collected since I was a kid. But lately, it comes down to a couple of reasons: First, one of my close friends is a former geologist. He knows where to find all the cool stuff. Secondly, because I've been challenged – more like convicted – to add margin into my life.
I think it all started when I came across a quote by Jimmy Mellado, the President of Compassion International: “Don't let doing the work of God destroy the work God is doing in you.”
Seems counter-intuitive. After all, doesn't God call us to do His work? Yes. But He also calls us to “Come apart and rest.” To be honest, while I can do the work part of the equation … I struggle to do the “rest” part. And while it's taken a long time to realize, resting is just as important as working. Because when I rest, what I'm really saying is, “God, I trust you to take care of things.”
There's another reason that rest and margin are so important. Here's Dr. Richard A. Swenson from his book, “Margin” - “We must have some room to breathe. We need freedom to think and permission to heal. Our relationships are being starved to death by velocity. No one has the time to listen, let alone love. Our children lay wounded on the ground, run over by our high-speed good intentions. Is God now pro-exhaustion? Doesn’t He lead people beside the still waters anymore? Who plundered those wide-open spaces of the past, and how can we get them back? There are no fallow lands for our emotions to lie down and rest in.”
That brings me back to my work desk and all the rocks that clutter it. For me, this is a tangible way to follow God's command to rest. To add margin and space. To get away from things for a few hours so that I can be rested enough to tackle God's work in a fresh, creative way. It's only a first step. I have a long way to go. And I'm challenging you to ask God to show you where – and how – you can add rest and margin into your life. How's that for a goal in 2018?
Need some encouragement to start? How about Jesus' words in Matthew 11:28-30 (from The Message):
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Get some rest. See how it makes a difference in your life and ministry.
What's next? This is generally the time of year that we're checking predictions for the next big thing in media, religion, politics, shopping trends and which teams will advance to the Super Bowl.
Maybe, for you, this is a time to look ahead and make plans for the coming year. What's your next big idea? How will you follow it?
Or maybe the question is this: How do we reach our world when people seem to be turning away from the Truth? How do we share the Gospel when it seems like no one wants to listen?
We face several challenges in the coming year. But as you think about the challenges and opportunities ahead, remember these bold words – God's promise – from Joshua 1:9 - “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Whatever your next steps … whatever challenges we face in the coming year … remember that we don't face the future alone. God is with us.
Happy New Year!
Bill Arbuckle CMW
Bill Arbuckle is a media and marketing pro with over twenty-five years experience in creating media promotions. He is a Colorado Springs-based morning show co-host and writer. You can connect
Are you looking forward to 2018? What opportunities await you in the coming year? Where do you want to take your station and your social media channels?
Last week I asked you to pick one thing that you want to accomplish in 2018. What is your “one thing?”
Now that you've selected it, here's the next step to accomplishing your goal: make a road map to help you get to your “one thing.”
Sound easy? Maybe. But it's not as simple as you'd think. Because making a road map means you have to chose where you'd go … and where you won't go. Or, in the case of planning for the year ahead, it means choosing what you will do … and what you won't do.
And here's where it gets tough: choosing what you won't do means that you'll have to say no. A lot. It means you'll have to turn down opportunities. You'll have to choose between what's “good” and what's “great.”
How do you make those decisions? Here's a couple of things to remember:
1) Choose your “one thing.” Be very specific with whatever it is you want to accomplish. Don't be content to say, “I'm growing my audience,” instead, say, “My current audience size is (X). By December, 2018, my goal is to increase listenership by five percent.”
2) Set “mile markers” so that you can measure your success or course correct along the way. If audience growth is your goal, check your ratings. Or count the number of new donors. Your “mile markers” may look different than these examples, but make sure you're measuring your success.
3) Determine (in advance) what things will help you reach your goal. Likewise, determine what things will distract you from your goal. Base your decisions on past performance. What events or promotions have been successful in the past? Which ones took too much time and effort and didn't offer much in return? Choose the events and promotions that will help you reach your goal.
4) Add enough margin to your plan so that you can try new things. It's important to stay focused on your goal. It's also important keep your eyes open to new opportunities. Choose the ones that get you toward your goal … and measure your results.
As you work toward success in the new year, make sure you've chosen “one thing” - a solid goal to work toward - and then determine the events, activities and promotions you need to do to achieve your goal. Measure your efforts, make course corrections as needed … and always keep your eyes on the goal.
Bill Arbuckle CMW