Here’s the last part of my workshop from the North American Christian Convention on Blogging, Enewsletters, and Podcasting.
Pastor’s Guide to E-Newsletters–How to create a must-read e-newsletter for your church by Jenni Catron from Outreachmagazine.com, January 2007
At Cross Point Community Church in Nashville, Tenn., we send out Crosswire, our weekly e-newsletter, each Wednesday with short, newsy updates about what’s happening on Sunday and in our ministries throughout the week. This establishes a point of communication with our members, many who are 20- and 30-somethings firmly entrenched in the information age. E-mail is where they are. And we’ve found that Crosswire is the most effective way to communicate with our attendees on a regular basis. During a busy week, most of them won’t navigate to our Web site on their own to check for news.
How to do it:
Set-up Time: A few weeks to design, compile subscribers and develop content
Maintenance: 2 hours a week to write, edit and send your e-newsletter
Find an editor. Enlist a task-oriented person (with some writing/editing skills) from your church to manage deadlines, and gather and polish content.
Design your template. Choose e-mail template software. iLife suite is extremely user-friendly (apple.com/ilife). Or check out Templatemonster.com. Be sure to craft your e-newsletter as professionally as possible. If you have an attractive Web site, make sure your e-newsletter is consistent with the design. Refresh the template seasonally to keep it interesting.
Or for a surprisingly affordable fee, you can hire a design/marketing company. Make detailed sketches and tear out designs you like from magazines to show the designer. We hired the A Group (theagrouponline.com) as our marketing company, which not only designs our template, but also blasts the e-newsletter each week, manages our subscriber list and tracks open rates (how many people open the e-newsletter) and click-throughs (how many people click into your Web site from the e-newsletter).
Gather subscribers. Every Sunday morning, we insert a card in the church bulletin encouraging people to sign up for the e-newsletter. When we first launched Crosswire, we pulled every e-mail address in our database. Then we sent a one-time e-mail to the whole list saying, “This is our new weekly e-mail, and we’d like you to be part of it. Click here to subscribe.” We only sent the future issues of the newsletter to the people who subscribed, or what viral marketers call an “opt-in.” Federal laws prohibit companies or churches from sending mass e-mails to people without their expressed permission.
To continue to gather subscribers, consistently promote your e-newsletter after its launch. Every now and then, we put a blurb in our weekend bulletin asking, “Are you signed up for Crosswire?” We also post it on the home page of our church’s Web site.
Gather weekly content from ministry staffers. You’ll need weekly updates on your ministries and projects, so charge key staffers with that task. Establish a content deadline at least two days prior to your send date as you’ll need time to edit for space and clarity. You might also want to provide a form that allows busy staffers to answer specific questions about the ministry.
Edit strategically. Determine the most important things you want to communicate, and only include those. The e-newsletter should alert your congregation to church happenings, but your Web site should be the source for all the details. Provide links in the e-newsletter for readers to click into the site for specifics.
And vary the length of the pieces. A strong page design usually features one article that’s longer than the others and is often accompanied by a photo. But if you put too much in the e-newsletter, people will stop reading it.
Write catchy subject lines. It’s your only chance to get people to read your e-newsletter or click into your Web site. Ask yourself, “What would make me want to read this?”
Send wisely. Send your e-newsletter before the end of the workweek, as some of your congregants only have work e-mail. But avoid Friday—people are already gone for the weekend or have mentally checked out. Most other e-newsletters go out Monday and Tuesday, so we send Crosswire on Wednesday, and occasionally Thursday.
Blast correctly. Send the e-newsletter through a custom e-mail blaster or a Web marketing company. Don’t try to blast from your church e-mail. If you send to numerous addresses, you’ll bog down your mail client, and you could be listed as a spammer. For professional HTML e-mail blasts with built-in tracking, try ConstantContact (constantcontact.com).
Include an e-card.
Before your church launches a sermon series, give your congregation an easy outreach tool by attaching an e-card invitation to your e-newsletter that members can use to send to their friends.
Use the e-newsletter to push people to your church Web site. On average, Crosswire doubles our weekly Web site traffic. When we included a link to a humorous video clip of our pastor on the Web site, traffic tripled that week.
Source: Jenni Catron is executive director of Cross Point Community Church (crosspointonline.org) in Nashville, Tenn., where she manages the production of Crosswire, the church’s weekly e-newsletter. This content originally appeared on Outreachmagazine.com in January 2007.
Pastor’s Guide to Podcasting by David Russell and Mark Batterson
At National Community Church (NCC) in Washington, D.C., we are deeply convicted of the need to redeem technology and use it for God’s purposes. There’s a strong tradition for that. Gutenberg could have copied anything on his printing press, but he chose the Gospel.
And the Church needs to compete. We need to get our message into the hands of as many people as possible, and podcasts—digital broadcasts made available on the Internet—are proving very effective. If it’s worth preaching, it’s worth podcasting. Podcast your weekly messages, but also explore other types of podcasts: 20-minute motivational talks, updates, core values, leader touch-points, “radio shows.”
At NCC, we ask new visitors how they heard about us, and they often recount stumbling across our podcasts on a friend’s MySpace. Although approximately 1,000 people around the D.C. Metroplex attend our weekly services, thousands more tune in to our weekly podcasts.
How to do it:
Set-up Time: 1–2 hours to record your podcast
Maintenance: 1 hour a week to podcast your weekly sermon
1. Plug your microphone into your computer. Recommended Mics:
• Samson C01U (samsontech.com), $80
• The Heil PR40 (heilsound.com), $260
2. Open your recording application and set up the track(s) you want to record. This process depends on the software you’re using, so check the Help section for more detailed instructions.
Recommended recording applications for Windows:
• Audacity (audacity.sourceforge.net), free
• Adobe Audition (adobe.com/products/audition), $300
Recommended Mac applications:
• Garage Band and iWeb, packaged with OSX
• Apple Logic (apple.com/logic), $300 for Express version
3. Check the mic “levels” to make sure you don’t see red on the level meter when you talk, which could cause distorted output. Laugh or speak at your highest volume while checking to ensure the recording isn’t going to “peak.” Record a few seconds of talking at normal volume, then stop and play back that section. Sound good? Delete that track.
4. Prepare the room for recording. Close all doors and windows. If the room has hard floors, lay down towels or blankets throughout the room. Eliminate any other obvious ambient noise—fans, cell phones, digital watches.
5. Start recording. Keep podcasts, even sermons, to 30 minutes or less, or you’ll lose most of your audience. Begin your regular sermons with a shout-out to your podcast audience to make them feel included. When you’ve finished, press the stop button in the recording application and save the work there. Edit the track(s) if you need to add royalty-free music intros, fix speech errors or boost a weak mic signal.
6. Export the final version to mp3 format. Pay attention only to the exporting option called the “bitrate” option. The ideal bitrate for an mp3 podcast is 64 kbps on a mono channel format. The resulting clarity is near that of a CD, with a manage-able file size. Name the output file whatever you like, but keep it short.
CD Ripping: If you already record your weekend sermons onto CD, use iTunes or another CD ripping application to encode straight to mp3 file format.
7. Locate your Web host. This is online space where you’ll store and deliver your podcast files.
Recommended Web Hosts:
• Our Media (ourmedia.org), free
• 1and1 (1and1.com), $2.24/month
8. Upload the mp3 file to a directory on your Web hosting space using an FTP client. (FTP means “file transfer protocol,” responsible for managing file transfer on the Web.)
Recommended FTP for Windows:
• SmartFTP (smartftp.com), $37
Recommended FTP for Mac:
• Fetch (fetchsoftworks.com), $25
Now create a folder called “Podcast.” Inside, create a folder called “Audio” to differentiate between audio and video podcasts. Upload the file inside that folder. The direct link to that mp3 file will be: http://www.yourdomain.com/podcast/audio/yourfile.mp3. Make a note of that link—and be precise. Capitalization and accuracy are important.
9. Deliver your audio file on the Web. Podcasting offers a method of subscription using technology called RSS or “Really Simple Syndication,” which pulls a set of data (like text, audio or video) into one place for your listeners.
Use a blogging tool like WordPress (wordpress.org) or Blogger (blogger.com) to deliver your podcast. If you don’t already have an account, sign up for one to receive a domain, such as yourchurch.wordpress.com. Log in. Now create a “post” with the title and description of your podcast. Then add that link in the description and “publish” the post. Also post the podcast on your MySpace profile.
Congratulations! You just made your podcast publicly available and simultaneously created a podcast feed. See it for yourself by going to yourchurch.wordpress.com/feed. It won’t make sense to you, but it will to podcast feed readers.
10. Let iTunes know you’re there. iTunes (apple.com/itunes) is the indisputable king of podcasting directories—it’s a good idea to be listed there. To do this, submit your podcast feed to the iTunes directory. Once your podcast is listed with iTunes, create a one-click link to the podcast and send it via e-mail or post it to your Web site, giving people with iTunes a simple method of subscribing.
You’re done! Audiences can now access your podcast with just a computer and an Internet connection. If podcasting still sounds too complex, recruit tech-savvy teenagers in your church to help.
Simple Podcasting for Churches By Bob Brown, Christ’s Church
A Philosophy of Podcasting:Podcasting is another route for getting your message to the world. Remember that Churches are producers of of important content.
May cut into sermon CD sales, but that isn’t a problem unless that is a primary revenue stream.
Start with the sermon and then move into other areas like lectures, classes, or even messages recorded specifically for the web site.
Who should be in charge of the Podcast?
A podcast can only be successful if someone in your church is truly dedicated to doing it. The person providing the content should be completely sold on the idea, and the person managing it should be dedicated to the task. Otherwise, it will quickly sink in quality and become a burden.
Obtaining the Audio: The most important thing is to obtain good quality audio at the start. This will be better for editing, it will compress better, and it will sound better. For your worship services you can hook directly into the soundboard and record to a CD, Computer, or Digital Audio Recorder.
Our latest CD recorder is a Tascam CD-RW900 (pricing). Use a battery backup (UPS) because a CD that is interrupted before being finalized becomes a useless shiny disc.
If you use a computer it should be created in a lossless format such as .wav, Apple Lossless, or Windows Lossless.
You can use your computer’s audio-in jack, but you are better off with specialized hardware such as:
Digidesign Mbox2: Standard / Education price
TC Electronic Konnekt 8
A USB Microphone.
Editing the Audio:
Garageband on the Mac (part of iLife – $79).
Audacity with an MP3 encoder on Windows, Mac, or Linux.
If you just need to get it off of a CD you can use CDEX, iTunes, or Windows Media Player.
Publishing your Content
WordPress is a blogging system that can create your podcast feed: Podpress or the Audio Player plugins.
Drupal: More about that from the Geeks and God podcast.
Very Important: Tagging Your Files.
Proper file naming and tagging makes it easier for your users to track the content.
It should be consistent and informative.
Example 1: Podcast_Name-Series_Name-Sermon#-Sermon_Title.mp3
When someone sorts their podcast by file name your messages will be grouped together apart from other podcasts and then sorted by the series name and number with proper information about the message readily available.
Example 2: Podcast_Name-YYYYMMDD-Title.mp3
If you don’t have series then include the date with the year first followed by the 2 digit month and the 2 digit day. This will improve sorting and provide useful information about when the podcast was created. Including a useful title will also make it easier for people to know the content.
Tagging is information included inside the file for the computer to understand. This is the additional information you see when hovering the mouse over the file. Stuff like title, author, year, genre, etc. If your editing software doesn’t add the tags then you can use something like FixTag (requires Java) or MP3Tag.
Online Resources for Distribution
The iTunes Store is a popular means for getting your podcast noticed, all it provides is advertising and easy eased subscription for iTunes and iPod users.
Feedburner is one of the best ways to manage your podcast feed.
You can create community discussion podcasts with Skypecasting or Talk Shoe.
Copyright Issues You only have the right to post content you create or have been given permission to use.
There is a good episode from the Creative Synergy Podcast on Copyright & the Church.
Don’t record the music from your service, it isn’t worth the hassle to get permission for everything. The rules for posting online are different from those for selling on CD.
If you use music, get a musician to perform something they created or get something from a creative commons or freely available music source such as the Podsafe Music Network.
Podcasts you might enjoy:
Church Tech Talk from Southeast Christian Church
Geeks and God
Church IT Discussions is a podcast chat done as a round table / call-in program online.
Ravi Zacharias provides a good example of a daily teaching podcast.
Creative Synergy: Has good content, but don’t hold your breath between episodes. This serves as a good example that having regular episodes is a solid element in a good podcast.