How Hillsong Crafts Compelling Digital Marketing Campaigns

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Once upon a time, Jesus went up a mountainside and sat down. He then began to teach His disciples; a sermon that is now recalled as the Sermon on the Mount.

At one point in this sermon, Jesus said something that changed communication forever: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16 NIV)

Jesus was declaring these statements over His followers, and inspiring them to let their “light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”. And they did.

They spoke with people in their proximity, preached to the multitudes in other cities, travelled miles & miles to plant churches and wrote letters to distant brothers & sisters when time & place became a limitation.

“They used the means they had to spread the message they loved.”

2000 years later, as we endeavour to follow His word & will for us: using the means we have to spread the message we love may look different when it comes to the method, but the same when it comes to the message.

As we navigate this calling in 2018, digital means of communication are an incredible God-given opportunity for His followers to “let their light shine”, instead of “hiding it”. We’ve laboured over the past few years to spread His message through 21st century means and have learned a few things about digital campaigns that we’d love to share with you.

1. Strategy – The why behind the what.

“Your destination should determine your direction.”

Many overlook this stage and go straight into executing the campaign at hand; but if we are to achieve our fullest potential, it’s paramount we take a step back and think about what is it we want to achieve.

Where we are going should determine the steps we are taking.

3 questions to ask:
– What’s the outcome desired from this campaign? (e.g. people visiting Church, registrations for a Conference)
– Is a budget being allocated to achieve the goal and if so, how much?
– What is the deadline for achieving our goal and how long should we allow to reaching that goal?

2. Platform/Medium – The how before the what.

“Speak where & how people are listening.”

Just as Paul and early Church planters used letters; we use digital platforms to share our message. It’s important we tweak the message to the platform (and audience) as people engage differently on different media platforms. Just imagine how different your interaction is with a movie (90 mins of full, undivided attention, sitting in a dark room with a huge screen) compared to a facebook post (0.2 seconds of fragmented attention, somewhere in a busy moment of your life on a small screen).

3 things to note:
– Not all digital channels are created equal. Take time to test different channels as all will have different costs & results. Tailor your media buying to your campaign objectives.
– Behaviour on a platform is contextual to the platform. People process information differently in a movie theatre than they do on their smartphone on the bus. Allow that reality to inform your creative process.
– Spend time learning the craft of each platform, knowledge of the process will increase quality of the output.

3. Creative – The what.

“What you say shapes what they see.”

Our communications team at Hillsong Church does a phenomenal job in crafting beautiful words, images and films that give expression to what the heart of our house is.

As we move more and more into the digital space, here’s 3 things we’ve learnt to consider along the way:
– Create contextually. As digital media becomes ubiquitous we must develop new skills: produce output that is faithful to the heart of the message and at the same time is constantly innovative in method.
– Understand platform dynamics. Understand how the person who is going to interact with your art will do so; and what it needs to see the individual inspired to take action in the direction of the outcome desired. What’s the one thing that the viewer needs to see in the first 0.2 seconds of interacting with your content? If you don’t say it; they won’t see it.
– Test. We can now test multiple versions of the same message and assess which versions are performing best. There’s no reason to try only one approach. Test at least 3 or 4 hypotheses of what might move people to action and run them in the real world! You’ll learn valuable lessons and make changes that drive value.

4. Data – The who.

“Who you talk to influences the impact of what you tell them.”

Although some may be able to sell sand in a dessert; it’s neither the best nor most efficient strategy. Don’t let limited resources stop you; rather – allow them to work smarter in deciding who to reach.

3 levels of data you can use:
– 1st party data: the best data is your data. Provided that you’ve accounted for GDPR-approved ways of collecting, storing and using data; you might have absolutely incredible data on the people you want to inspire to action: remarketing lists based on website behaviour, email databases and people who engage with you on social media are all great places to start.
– Platform-specific data: most online advertising platforms have their own data and targeting options. Explore Facebook’s tools to find great ways to segment your audience (demographic, geographic, interest-based,…), Google (intent, geographic, behaviour) and many others. The more you know the more you grow.
– Data-partners: there’s a great number of data partners that collect and provide additional data layers to 1st party data and platform-specific data. Consider your niche and seek out the top players and test.

5. Measurement – The how many.

“You can’t manage what you don’t measure.”

Digital has an advantage (and disadvantage) over traditional communication channels: you can track the effectiveness of your campaigns to an unprecedented degree. Exactly how many people signed up for your conference because they watched that particular billboard on 3rd Ave? Impossible to say precisely. Exactly how many people signed up for your conference because they interacted with a facebook advertising? Absolutely and precisely measurable.

Leverage these new capabilities and measure as much as possible. Just don’t judge the results too harshly if your organisation isn’t ready to use the same criteria for the other channels.

3 angles to account for:
– Be ambitious about what to track. Explore support documents, ask questions, dive into the platforms and make the most out of it. The more you track the better you manage.
– Be diligent in analysing data. Spend time looking at reactions to the artwork, engagement to the website and behaviour on the decision page.Take actions based on insight.
– Go outside the box. Use tools that let you analyse real consumer data (not samples or studies) like Google Search Console to give insight into what you could do, not just what you have done.

We’ve discovered that every time we flesh out a campaign leveraging these five pillars, we “let our light shine” in a digital environment and people are inspired to action.

Our prayer is that you discover the same.

Francisco Cabral
Hillsong Technology


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