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Church and Slate: How Houses of Worship Can Become Media Companies

Houses of worship can benefit from adopting concepts, tools, and workflows from mainstream media companies to extend their reach and grow their ministries. We'll discuss several of those in this article, including developing a content strategy, content creation, asset management, live streaming, collecting and evaluating analytics, and more.

Content Strategy: What is Your Story? How Are You Going to Tell It?

When establishing your house of worship as a broadcast network and content studio, one of the hardest things is to formulate a vision and establish clear objectives. You need to identify what your story is and have a clear idea of how you want to convey it. Once your organization is committed to producing live streams and content, you need to ask yourself several questions:

• Who and where is your audience?
• What is your spiritual message?
• What type of content can you create that reinforces your identity and messaging?
• How can your departments collaborate to create that unified message?
• How can you make it entertaining?
• How often do you want to produce videos and stream events?
• What type of original content will you produce?

Build Your Library of Digital Assets

To begin with, you need to capture video and photos during sermons and special events. Try to capture as much video and still imagery as possible, since anything you capture can be considered for use as b-roll or behind-the-scenes footage. Photos can be reused as stock images for your website, promotional videos, informational materials, and more. Video, text, graphics, and photos must be produced and presented consistently, since the content you deliver will be a key component in your marketing.

Since you created and own it, there’s no additional cost involved when using and repurposing those photos or videos, which will save you a lot of time and money in the long run. But be sure to keep the quality as professional as possible, since you may be mixing your own materials with other stock footage and images from different sources.

Create Your Own Content

Original content comes in many forms. You should consider developing programs similar to television shows that contain compelling subject matter, as well as covering issues that can help your followers as well as sparking interest in potential new members in discovering solutions for their personal growth. If you’re not ready to develop your own shows, I suggest starting off with streaming and then expand into different types of programming that are a part or your identity.

Video programming can include the following:

• Live streaming (sermons, events, etc.)
• Classes
• Documentaries
• Shortform videos
• Longform videos
• Promotional videos
• Viral videos
• Mobile content

Audio-only programming can include the following:

• Classes
• Podcasts and shows
• Promotional spots

Content Creation: Improve Your Production Quality

Houses of worship usually have volunteers that run the show during a live streaming event. In order to have consistent production value, you need individuals who can maintain and execute the standards you set, whether they are volunteers or hired professionals. They must be engaged, enabled, and committed in their position and fully understand that they carry the vision of the church.

I highly recommend hiring qualified, full-time personnel to manage your events and production. By having someone that is technically qualified, you will also ensure that the event will be a success, with only very minor technical glitches. Technical glitches are a part of the production process, but with an experienced technical director you can mitigate some of the issues prior to the event.

Designate a person such as a Director of Media to be in charge of productions, manage volunteers, and work to build your media team. Look to someone who is versed in multiple disciplines, able to handle switching, camera operation, lighting, sound, and technical troubleshooting.

If your budget allows, I also suggest having a clear division of labor, with separate individuals assigned the roles of technical director, audio tech, graphics operator, camera operators, and director.

It would be ideal if your church already has qualified technical volunteers or staff who can help in some of the production areas. Otherwise, don't be afraid to look to outside professionals who can come in and offer good advice, help you avoid making mistakes, and thus save you a lot of embarrassment and headaches.

Foster Education and Cross-Training

Having your crew learn while on the job can be disastrous. For professional results, you should have capable people operating professional equipment. I highly recommend encouraging production staff to devote several hours a week to learn a new piece of gear or software as your organization acquires new production tools. They should test the gear and practice with it in settings that replicate the exact production scenarios for an upcoming event. You should have them attend conferences and seminars to become familiar with the equipment and industry. Also register them for online courses and use YouTube as resource to learn how to perform things.

You should also cross-train the staff in each other’s specified roles since you do not want to jeopardize a production if one member of your production crew calls in sick or can’t show up. Live productions—particularly live streaming productions—should not rely on one person. Cross-training your crew helps in developing your team’s abilities so you have the flexibility to respond to technical problems on the fly.