I was inspired by a recent article to write about the subject of email forwards. Do you have one of those people at your church who send every FWD known to man?
What I want to uncover in this post is not all the evils of forwarded emails, but rather ask a more direct question: Is the communication coming out of your church predominantly email forwards of the cute kitten and support our troops variety? I’m not knocking kittens or the troops, but if you were to think of every member of your congregation as a public relations person and consider the types of communication they have with people with religious content.
Ask people who work in grassroots organizing and they will tell you people follow and listen to their friends. So logically, if each member of your church has influence over a circle of friends it would make sense to empower each one of them to help spread your message. A newsletter only goes so far in reaching and informing people’s opinions and perceptions of your church.
What we need to consider is the personal impact factor. The person who sends you an email forward is touched by the story, no matter how much they have to scroll past all the names of people indicating the dozens of times the email has been forwarded already. They still “buy in” to the message and want to share it with others. The question for churches then is how to make communications and media that members will share within their sphere of influence.
One obvious answer is an e-newsletter. There are many sites that allow you to create an e-newsletter and distribute it to a list of subscribers. Rooted Up recommends MailChimp.com for their professional look and simple, user-friendly interface for creating e-newsletters fast. If your church has a small number of members you can use this service for free without worrying about going over your allotted number of newsletter distributions per month. If you are a large church, 500+ e-newsletter subscribers or 3,000+ distributions per month, you should have no trouble with the low monthly fees.
Other ways to encourage members to spread your message is through utilizing Facebook and other social media sites, as well as your church website. The key is to give people what they want and need and then make it easy for them to share it with others. For example, see a previous post about putting a share button on your church website.
As for those people who will likely still send the occasional “FWD: FWD: FWD: RE: YOU’VE GOT TO SEE THIS!!!!!” gently send them the Snopes.com version of the same email. You can usually do this by searching for a few key words from the body of the email or the subject line, and after a little browsing on Snopes locate the true or false nature of the email. Be kind and tell them you wanted to make sure they were aware it was a hoax/false (they usually are). They will usually be thankful, but still need a few reminders that Snopes.com is the online authority for discovering if an email forward is true or false.