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Branding Faith: Why Some Churches and Nonprofits Impact Culture and Others Don't Hardcover – March 3, 2008
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From the Back Cover
About the Author
From religious media to humanitarian and cause marketing, Phil Cookeconsultant, strategist and media activistis unparalleled at helping religious and nonprofit organizations and their leaders tell their story to the world. He has appeared on MSNBC, CNBC and CNN, and his work has been profiled in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal. Phil also speaks at workshops, seminars and conferences on a global basis.
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Phil Cooke's 2008 book, Branding Faith: Why Some Churches and Nonprofits Impact Culture and Others Don't, seeks to change some of these perceptions. Cooke specializes in the intersection of faith and media and acts as a consultant helping religious organizations to better tell their story.
Branding, according to Cooke, is all about the story that surrounds a business or organization. It's what immediately comes to people's minds when they think of the organization. With this in mind, he challenges Christian organizations to think carefully about what makes them unique in the world so as to better share their story and help people understand who they are and what they stand for.
Cooke does an admirable job of pointing out the potential dangers in "over-thinking" marketing efforts. He devotes an entire chapter to how churches and non-profits risk losing their identity to marketing "gimmicks" and trying to chase relevancy - and how potential parishioners are turned off by such efforts. I was especially relieved to see Cooke emphasizing the personal relationship between the organization and the individual:
"In a world in which few people have close friends, expand your community and get to know people. Enlarge your network of really close friends. Perhaps it's becuase I was raised before the digital age that I still value face-to-face communication far more than phone conversations or email."
That having been said, the book should read with some discernment. Cooke, understandably, speaks almost exclusively from a Protestant point of view. Emphasis is placed on the importance of preaching (an emphasis which is complementary to, but different from, the sacramental view of liturgy in the Catholic Church) and, as a result, puts a heavy emphasis on the importance of the leader's communication skills.
Nevertheless I think there are some good insights for any Christian organization trying to understand how to share its passion and invite others to work with them. It will certainly challenge those who think that marketing has no place in the life of the Church to reconsider their position.
Phil Cooke is a filmmaker and media consultant, with a PhD in theology. His book is the most compelling answer that I have read so far to the question, "How can churches most effectively communicate with outsiders within today's cultural context?" The book, whilst acknowledging the dark side of branding and the negative perceptions associated with marketing, demonstrates how telling your story is an exercise in branding. A branding exercise involves asking the questions: Why are you doing this? Who are you? What are your gifts and talents? What makes you different? The answers to these questions provide the key to creating your unique voice.
Branding, according to the author, is about creating and maintaining trust. It is not about attempting to run a church like a business; businesses exist to make money whereas churches exist to communicate the Good News. However, every communication that a church makes, whether through printed materials, verbal interactions or building design, contributes positively or negatively to the church's brand. Branding is vital, because the effectiveness of a church's communications depend not on the content itself but on the hearer's perception of what is being communicated.
A struggle exists with weighing the integration of properly supplying a Christian message through popular mediums against the harmful virtues of commercialism. Dr. Cooke appropriately answers this.
Actually, he never really mentions the gospel at all.
An extremely unhelpful book.
Keep a pen or pencil handy as you ready BRANDING FAITH, there is much to learn and think about. I highly recommend!