2. Management/Admin.: 2.6 Distribution/Presentation

In the world of the marketplace if you have products to sell you will, of course, have to make them known and available to potential customers. Commercial enterprise refers to this as Distribution. This is marketing proper and it involves advertising and branding, tools used to disseminate information about the products being made available. A brand is a combination of visual (logo), verbal (catch phrase), and personal (the CEO) information that allows a prospective customer to immediately recognize your business and, hopefully, associate it with a certain level of quality. It is, as one author put it, “your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors.”[1] The reason for this is that “these days, everyone will Google you before they visit your restaurant, buy your products, hire you to perform a service, loan money to you or invest capital in your new or existing venture. Any time you interact with people — online or off — your brand will matter.”[2]  Presumably, then, a prospective visitor will look your Church up on the Internet, recognize the OCA, the GOA, or the Antiochian Church as a reportable “brand,” and, as a result, visit the parish. Of course, you could also brand the local parish itself (e.g. St Basil’s, All-Saints, Saddleback) or, if you are more into personality cults you could brand the priest or pastor himself (e.g. Joel Osteen). In order for this to happen effectively, we (the Church) needs what is now called a digital footprint, that is a presence in cyberspace. As one business writer suggests, “The foundation of your brand is your logo. Your website, packaging and promotional materials–all of which should integrate your logo–communicate your brand.”[3]

When it comes to advertising in general, of which branding is just a small part, the logic seems to be that in order for people to buy your product they have to know about it and, perhaps more importantly, you have to help them develop a desire for whatever you are selling, and then convince them to buy your version of it. There are already numerous studies that reveal the “dark” side of this manipulative and often unethical activity. Vance Packard, for example, speaks of a disquieting

large-scale effort[s] being made, often with impressive success, to channel our unthinking habits, our purchasing decisions, and our thought processes by the use of insights gleaned from psychiatry and the social sciences. Typically, these efforts take place beneath our level of awareness; so that the appeals which move us are often, in a sense, “hidden.” The result is that many of us are being influenced and manipulated, far more than we realize, in the patterns of our everyday lives.[4]

For what I hope are obvious reasons, the Church cannot engage in any activity designed to deliberately disable human free will/choice and then encourage a particular decision. But what about a presence in cyber world? Could that not be useful, if for no other reason than name recognition and simply providing information about our parishes?  Moreover, since the Church has no products it really does not have to speak of distributing anything in the ordinary sense of commodities. What we are offering to the world is and introduction to the person of Christ and not our parishes or our clergy. I suppose we could “brand” Jesus, as certain “Jesus Only” groups appear to do.  But, I think that diminishes or reduces Christ to an object for sale and it completely violates who he is and what he has done for us.

Still, the services a parish offers do have to be made available outside the confines of the parish itself, i.e., they have to be made public (publicity?). Some information about what we are doing and the person we are introducing has to be broadcast. Given the nature of the Gospel-as-Person, I would like to refer to this ecclesial broadcasting as publicizing, rather than advertising. This reaching out would include making our offerings known and providing instructions on how to use or participate in those services doing so without manipulation or self-aggrandizement. In the next few posts I will deal with questions of publicity and education, that is, how the Church can best present itself to the world it desires to serve.

[1] “The Basics of Branding,” Entrepreneur, 2018, https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/77408.

[2] Steven J. L. Croft, Ian Mobsby, and Stephanie Spellers, Ancient faith, future mission : fresh expressions in the sacramental traditions (New York: Seabury Books, 2010).

[3] Williams, “The Basics of Branding.”

[4] Packard, The hidden persuaders, 31.

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