Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Book Review: Kem Meyer's "Less Clutter. Less Noise."


Marketing and promotion aren't exactly a favorite subject for churches and pastors. For one, it seems somehow kind of dirty; the gospel should speak for itself and not need any P.R., right? For another, it's one more thing for which pastors don't have time. We spend so much time preparing sermons, counseling people in crisis, reading and studying and praying (and blogging) - who has time to think about websites and promotion and bulletins and newsletters? And for another, too often we in the church become so insulated in our little worlds that we forget to think about the image and message we present to the world. It's just comfortable here in the world of simplistic websites, clip-art, and lo-fi audio.

Whether we like it or not, though, we all send messages to the world around us, to people looking for hope and answers, to people trying to decide whether or not the church ought to play a part in their lives. We're also sending messages to the people already inside the building. And too often, those messages are confusing, overwhelming, difficult to follow, stale, and even cheesy.

Which is where Kem Meyer's book "Less Clutter. Less Noise." becomes so valuable. In even drawing our attention to the issue, if even for forcing us to think about the ways our public message impacts our people and the larger community, this book is well worth the price.

This is a book about communication. About messages. About putting the best possible face forward. About treating our people with respect. About creativity. About clarity. About reducing clutter and confusion and overkill. About using best practices to streamline our communication, to reduce white noise, to focus on what's important and not bury our people in overkill.

Meyers takes us into the wonderful world of church newsletters, of websites, of bulletins, of physical location and flow, of Sunday morning announcements, of blogs and social networking. And she does it with whit and humor, using plenty of real-world examples, both good and bad. She brings her expertise into the church and shines the light around, which can be uncomfortable at times. Yet her attitude is winsome and self-deprecating, making it easy to laugh at ourselves.

She also gives resources and recommendations.. There's a whole seminar and a half in here, with links to books and websites; in addition, the last 35 pages are full of lists, samples. and examples of how to do it right and how to do it wrong. And each chapter ends with a series of questions to further discussion and action.

The simple fact is, our people are living in a world flooded with noise. All too often, our efforts at communication either add to that noise, or are lost within it. Our websites turn people away, our newsletters don't have the impact we desire. Sometimes we're so excited about ourselves that we forget to consider our audience. Sometimes we offend that audience through insensitivity to their situation. And most of us don't have the time to become well-trained communications directors; most of our churches can't afford even a part-time communications expert. Which is why I recommend most of us take the time to read this book, and allow it to stimulate out thinking. To teach us bow to better communicate in this world.

And why I recommend we have all our administrative assistants read it. And maybe our ministry directors. Not every piece is relevant to every ministry, but the heart is challenging and overall, very helpful. It's going onto my shelf, with the plan to pop it open every couple months and read a piece here or there, just to make sure I'm staying on track.

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