Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I Forgot

As my wife and I were walking out of church Sunday evening, she noticed that a container collecting food for a food drive the church was promoting was empty. She turned and said "how sad, there aren't any cans in the box for the food drive." Confused, I said "what food drive?" She scolded me saying, "the one in the bulletin last week. Didn't you read it?!" As a staff member in the communications department, I read it a few times. In fact, I proofed it before it went to print! That got me to thinking, why didn't I remember?

Part of the reason is that I don't go to church for events. I go to worship God, be developed in my faith, and be equipped to change the world for His glory. Now, that by no means trivializes the food drive. It simply explains why the small blurb in the bulletin didn't resonate with me. In that, I realized that once a week communication has some significant limitations. Mainly, most people forget the events of the bulletin by the time they reach their car after the service, let alone remember to go to the store, pick up some canned goods and return them to church the next week. So, how do we remind people?

Our answer is to use our blog. The church I work for is divided into different communities, each with their own programs, ministries and worship style, united by the same teaching. The youngest of the three communities has a blog, and uses it for general interest purposes. It isn't about this verse or that passage all the time. Sometimes it is a funny YouTube video that is going around, and other times it's an update on what the pastor does to relax. In this case, the food drive will be a perfect fit. Because we have a blog, we have a mid week opportunity to remind the congregation that they have an opportunity to give. By using the blog this way, it will take the digital communication and translate into a tangible result.

Another way I have seen work, but only works when planning ahead, is to provide some tangible reminder for people to take home. At my previous job, we used to literally have pallets of empty boxes for people to take home, fill up, and bring back. There were several reminders built in. First, you had a bunch of empty boxes all over the place screaming, "oh ya, there is a food drive". Second, people would literally have a box to see and remind them that they need to fill up a box. And finally, as the boxes are returned and stacked in various locations, people were reminded, "oh ya, I still have that box that I need to fill up".

Obviously different applications can be applied at different places, but those are two methods, one about damage control, one about planning ahead successfully, to reach your congregation more than once a week.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


I found out about a great service today called iPhoneslide. It is great for a few reasons. First, its free. Second, it really makes managing all these various online tools nice when it comes to uploading media. Don't let the "iPhone" part of the name scare you off, it works from any cell phone or computer.

The idea is simple. I have a Facebook account, a blog through Blogger, and am playing around with a Flickr account. Now, if you are anything like me, I don't fully understand the depths of each of these tools. Because of that, I typically post similar information on each site. And there comes the hassle. I don't want post the same photo to three different sites three different times. I then say "bah! forget it", and my photos go nowhere. Well, the wonderful people at iPhoneslide have solved that problem, and more.

The idea is to be able to take your photos from your phone and upload them from wherever you are to wherever you want them to be. That list includes Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, Wordpress, TypePad and Blogger. It is as simple as emailing your photo to post@iphoneslide.com. You will receive an email back with a link. Follow the link, and you are asked which sites you would like your photo uploaded to. You can even include title and descriptions for the photos by using the correct fields in the original email (check the FAQs). Amazing!

Obviously this has some really cool applications from the road. "Look, I'm stuck in the airport because of snow", or in the case of us southern Californians, "Look, I'm stuck on the freeway because there is a giant wall of fire in front of me". But it makes the upload to these various sites a lot easier even from the computer. Pretty cool stuff.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Power of a Well Told Story

I talked a few posts ago about why story works. I was reading ESPN.com yesterday, and found the story of a young man who was the mascot for North Carolina. The young man was a believer, and I found his story to be a very powerful testimony of a life lived for Christ. Today, I found that his story has been forwarded to more people than any other ESPN article. Now that is the power of story.

Monday, October 15, 2007

YouTube outreach

YouTube asked the question, "how has YouTube changed your life", and video makers answered. I find it interesting that the insecurities of being a teenager haven't changed much, only the way one "deals" with them. This short video is a great evangelism piece for YouTube. Wouldn't be a bad idea to have something like this flying around in your church's your ministry circles talking about how your [insert life stage here] is changing lives.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Doccument to PDF

One of the problems I often ran into at my last job was people needing to convert their word/excel files to PDF. As the graphic designer, I was the only one who had Acrobat Professional. It's great software, but way to expensive for everyone in the office to have a copy. So, each time a PDF needed to be created, I would get an email or a call asking for a few minutes of my time. Well, my wife had the same need at home a few days ago, and searched for an online solution. And here it is. You can upload any of the following format, and it will email you the pdf once it is completed. Great!

-MS Word (DOC) -MS Publisher (PUB) JPG, PNG

-MS Word (RTF)

-MS PowerPoint (PPT) -HTML (MHT) WMF, EMF
-MS PowerPoint (PPS) -Text (TXT) GIF

Even if you have Acrobat Professional, this may be an easier way to convert files.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Pretty doesn't equal Effective

I took the last week off writing so I could mull over some things and take care of the hefty list of to-dos I had before me last week. We had a yard sale over the weekend, and I was struck by a few things that apply directly to the way the church creates and communicates.

Obviously the goal with any yard sale is that people show up. Without people showing up, you won't sell any of the glorious goods you are trying to get rid of. So, the first issue becomes creating signs that communicate clearly and effectively.

My parents put some signs together made of shiny paper cut in the shape of arrows. They weren't particularly attractive in my opinion, but to add to that, they put orange and black streamers hanging off the signs. Lovely. The thing I noticed however, is that the signs were extremely effective. Now, as a designer I strive to produce attractive work, but all too often I see things that look pretty, but don't communicate. I regularly see signs that are attractively designed, but don't work. They are too small or too subtle. I need to know to turn left to get to the food court or the worship center. A subtle sign that blends in nicely is not good design. Design, after all, is the balance of aesthetics and communication.

The other major lesson I learned is that I don't know everything. My parents decided to have the yard sale on Friday and Saturday instead of just Friday. I spent much of Thursday telling my wife not to worry when no one showed up on Friday, because that just isn't a good day for a yard sale. To prove my ineptitude, more people showed up on Friday than I have ever seen at a yard sale. It was amazing. The reason I didn't know people would show up is simple...I don't know the audience as well as I thought. I knew them only well enough to make the wrong assumption. In the church, assumptions are made regularly about who attends, and how to capture the attention of those who don't. Very rarely, however, do we actually talk to those who don't attend in order to provide an appropriate design piece.

Good design isn't just about looking pretty. It is about developing a piece that communicates effectively and yields results. If we are too focused on looks, or aren't evaluating the success of our products post production, most likely, we aren't nearly as effective as we think we are.