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Church PR: Marketing 101 – Back to basics

By Daniel Torchia
Listen to this whole Media Ministry Minutes segment on this week’s SLHour.

When you hear or read the word Marketing, what does that conjure up in your mind? If you’re like most people, you’re likely thinking about advertising, branding, websites, email blasts, special promotions etc. All too often, we equate Marketing to these tactical – though very important – activities. We tend to forget or do not realize that it’s much larger than this.

Many Marketing introductory classes will start with the four or five Ps: Product or Service, Place of Distribution, Price or Cost, Promotions, Publics.

The American Marketing Association offers this definition:

“Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

When we, the Church, re-focus to these broader and more accurate definitions of Marketing, we realize that it hits closer to the core of our “offering” or value to society. Most of us will agree it’s advisable to reconsider the use of the 5 Ps in today’s Church – to the degree possible outside of the sacraments and other core elements of the Mass. Just consider these questions: What activities, services or “hospitality experience” are we offering immediately before or after Mass? Are we offering opportunities for engagement (feedback/personal expression)? Are we making it easy for people to start or reset their faith journey with us in a gradual way? What is our parish or Church group doing to connect with members of our broader community – including those who live largely on the Digital Continent?

An extended reflection on these questions – each of which touches on at least one of the 5 Ps – will surely lead to continuous innovation.

The “Need in the Marketplace” – The source of my optimism
Back in the late 90s, a professor explained how the beauty of marketing is how it helps meet unmet needs in the marketplace. I found his assertion simple and powerful. The foundations of Marketing start with solutions to unmet needs. And in this area, there is great reason to be optimistic for our faith. Across the globe and generations, people are desperate for love, purpose and fulfillment. A walk with Jesus offers us all that – and more!

As we consider how to use our time, talents and treasures in the New Year and throughout the year, let’s redouble our efforts to understand and embrace this broader definition of Marketing. With the Holy Spirit as our fuel and guide, there’s no limit to where we can go.


And what about Public Relations and Publicity?
Elements of Public Relations (e.g.: publicity or media relations) have a permanent home in Marketing and Promotions. That said, Public Relations should be considered a stand-alone managerial function within an organization or institution – outside of Marketing. To help crystalize this, it’s best to go back once more to the definition of Public Relations according to the Public Relations Society of America or the Canadian Public Relations Society:

“Public Relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” – PRSA

“Public Relations is the strategic management of relationships between an organization and its diverse publics, through the use of communication, to achieve mutual understanding, realize organizational goals, and serve the public interest.” – CPRS


If you’re intersted in learning more about this specific topic, read, How can I build a strong PR department?, or listen to the Media Ministry Minutes segment from that SLHour episode.

Daniel Torchia is founder of Dialogue and Grace, a team of professionals devoted to helping the Catholic Church and its members improve their programs, campaigns and competencies in the areas of Public Relations and Organizational Communications. Read more from Daniel at Dialogue and Grace.