New PR tools to grow churches
This winter the pilot media campaign that tested “The Uncommon Denomination” theme in the Kansas City area a year ago, helping to double the number of visitors in some congregations, is spreading across the country. An Uncommon Denomination TV spot is playing in Rockford, Illinois, and print ads using that theme are appearing in Houston, Texas; Boulder, Colorado; and Albany, New York. Many congregations are sporting the designs used on Kansas City billboards on their Web sites, T-shirts, and other items. And clusters of congregations in California, Florida, and elsewhere are planning advertising campaigns using the materials.
The Uncommon Denomination section was added to the UUA Web site this past fall at www.uua.org/uncommondenomination. It includes a variety of materials based on those developed for the pilot campaign, plus information on how congregations can make sure they're truly ready to welcome more visitors.
The Rev. Tracey Robinson-Harris, director of congregational services for the UUA and the coordinator of the Kansas City campaign, says about 200 congregations are using or have inquired about using parts of the campaign materials. Congregations are required to confer with Robinson-Harris and the UUA must give approval before advertising materials may be used.
“Response to the Web site has been tremendous,” she said. “The resources have generated enthusiasm, excitement, and a sense of pride in our faith. And that will create more of a public presence for our name and our values. People are realizing that our faith is not a possession, but rather a legacy which we are called to share.”
Bill Rusch, of the Southeast Florida cluster of congregations, said he has been pestering the UUA for information about the ad campaign ever since he first learned about it a year ago. The cluster is planning an ad campaign. “We're excited,” he said. “We think that by following the UUA marketing strategy we can make our area of Florida a region of UU growth and maybe make Unitarian Universalism a less uncommon denomination.”
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta had embarked upon its own program to come up with a way to publicize the congregation when it discovered the new Web site materials. Now it's putting “The Uncommon Denomination” slogan on items that it will sell to members, such as refrigerator magnets, mouse pads, and umbrellas.
“We found from new member surveys that the majority of visitors and new members had learned about us from friends and coworkers,” said Atlanta's Suzanne Hewitt, a member of the congregation's public relations council. “So we hope that our members will carry these items into offices throughout the Atlanta area and that they will spark conversations that will lead more people to us. We're especially hopeful about the umbrellas since winter is our rainy season!”“The Web site information has served as a hand to hold during this venture,” Hewitt said. “We have been inspired by the language of the slogan and are eagerly anticipating results from our efforts.”