Rob is the President of ImageStudios, and a Contributor in the area of Communications and Ministry Marketing. This interview was originally posted in our August 2016 Newsletter.
Q. How long have you been involved in Marketing and Communications?
A. I’ve really been involved in Marketing and Communications in some facet for more than 30 years. My degree is in Journalism with a minor in Speech Communications. For about seven years, I worked in Christian radio and hosted a national Christian music countdown on the USA Radio Network. I’ve owned a concert promotion company, worked at Focus on the Family editing and producing their programming, and at Association of Christian Schools overseeing their media and marketing. These were key positions as they rounded out my experience and really prepared me to uniquely help ministries reach their audience.
Q. Why are you involved in this area? How did God lead you into it? Briefly, tell us your story.
A. I’ve always been more of an entrepreneurial spirit with a few different ventures throughout my life. One of them was as a student at Texas A&M where I really felt led to bring Christian artists to the campus. Problem was I had no money. So, I was able to modify the contracts with minimal money down and payment due the day of the concert which would give me time to bring in sales. It had to succeed or I was sunk. I quickly worked to mobilize different campus ministries and organizations to boost awareness and excitement about the concert. That kind of motivation taught me about strategy and the importance of delegation as well as networking. Ultimately, I’d see people committing their hearts to God and trusting Jesus for the first time through what the artist was saying. I was humbled and realized that God’s hand was really at work to orchestrate all that happened. People were reached and that’s at the heart of what marketing is and what the Gospel is all about.
Q. What are some of the challenges for ministries in dealing with Marketing and Communications? What advice can you offer for overcoming them?
A. I think budget and expertise are the two key elements that are challenges for ministries. Ministries have a difficult time spending money. That can be short-sighted when it comes to Marketing if the right strategy is in place. It’s like knowing there are large deposits of gold inside a mountain, but you’re paralyzed by the cost of the equipment needed to dig down to it. But, if you get a geological engineer that knows what he’s doing, he can find the best way to get you to that gold and the payoff. Why? Because he’s done it before. He knows what drills and excavators are needed to best reach that gold. Finding an audience is the same way—you need the right people in place with the right training to best gather your audience in the most efficient way. The payoff can be huge and more hearts can be reached.
Q. What encouragement can you offer those who are involved in ministry and may be feeling discouraged?
A. God is sovereign. He knows all that we’re going through. If we’re consistently bringing our day before Him and walking in His Spirit, we can be assured that He’s got us covered—that the seemingly dark path we’re walking on will be lit in His perfect timing. He’s walking it with us.
Q. What advice or insight do you wish someone had shared with you when you first started out?
A. First, I wish someone had told us to build up a storehouse. It’s just wise to constantly save. Many things can affect your ministry. When we started out, we did amazingly well, but had no idea that 9/11 was just around the corner. Then there was the financial collapse in late 2008—and all the roller coaster rides in-between. You’ve got to ensure you have savings from the good times to successfully ride out the storms. Second, invest in the future. Just before starting ImageStudios, I worked for a ministry. I remember suggesting to them that they should have a website to sell their products. The management’s response was that we should wait and see what this web thing turns into. Jeepers, talk about missing the bus on that one! Point is that while we should prayerfully consider every step, God also gave us a head on our shoulders and when we see opportunities, we shouldn’t be afraid to jump in if we feel God’s provided an open door.
Q. What are some of the specific lessons you’ve learned over the years?
A. There have been several:
- Never take things for granted. Always be thankful for what God has provided.
- Remember Who you’re doing this for. I’ve always been Kingdom building. But, usually that Kingdom was mine. I did what you’re supposed to do: graduate college, get a job, launch a business and start accumulating the things your eyes desire. But, our talents and gifts aren’t given to us to prostitute for our own gain, but rather given to see how we can best serve the Body of Christ on this earth and effectively reach others with the Gospel. I’m constantly needing to remind myself of that because this world has a lot that competes for our attention and distracts us.
- Adapt. When we started, there were no websites, 32mb was a lot of RAM in my computer and cost $2,000, social media was the bulletin board at the coffee shop (Starbucks wasn’t around yet), and film was the way you burned plates for press. A lot has changed and having your ear the trends is a necessity to reach people where they are.
- Communicate. Few people are going to be upset if you over-communicate. Whether it’s updating someone on a project or simply checking in to show someone you care about them, it’s important. This world has become tech-savvy, but we’ve lost the “touch” that we all desire. Interacting with others and showing you care is rare and will set you apart.
Q. What are some of the specific ways you have been blessed by serving in this area of ministry?
A. By far, it’s the clients we have. We’ve been blessed to have some relationships from when we first started out. We also have a wide range of outlets for creativity from website development to social media content creation and strategy. And, at the end of the day, we’re just a knuckle in the Body of Christ, but we’re part of the amazing work God is doing!
Q. What other advice can you offer?
A. Stay in the Word and before God’s throne regularly to keep you close to the One you’re serving. Don’t start your day before opening God’s Word. Honestly, nothing else matters if your heart isn’t in the right positioning first.
Q. What are the go-to resources you would recommend ministries use for their Communications and Marketing?
A. Social Media Examiner is a great, free resource that delivers the latest trends for social, Amy Porterfield often has great webinars and papers to extend your reach. Also, tap into your networks and associations to get the word out.
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