Have you ever heard of Billy Graham? Does the name Rick Warren ring any bells? These men and many others have contributed greatly to the kingdom. They also invested in creating a personal brand as well. If done properly, it is not a narcissistic or prideful thing to do. It gives you focus as well as a bit of fame. That fame, when stewarded well, can be a powerful force for change. This is a quick guide to creating an online personal brand while remembering that it is not all about us.
You may be, or know of, a pastor that thinks it is just fine to work behind the scenes. You preach the word, meet a few people for coffee, and repeat for next week. You are building the church, and consider it right and humble to not work on your personal brand. The problem is that you have much to share, and are choosing not to. Staff members are not exempt from this either, as you also have experience and tips to share. This is especially true in this world of church communications. Many are out there blogging, podcasting, and sharing how to best execute in their trade. But first you need something to share.
Your biggest priority is to work hard, follow the Holy Spirit, and produce quality work. Do this regardless of a desire to create a personal brand. I imagine the urge for a pastor to skimp on a sermon is as powerful as the desire to cheat on a diet. A worship director may not think anyone will remember last Christmas, so why not repeat the same songs. Keep disciplined and create quality every time you are on call. Make everything you produce count. The passion you put in may be the golden example you will want to showcase at a later time.
Communication is a powerful tool we wield. The apostle Paul knew this, and wrote to any group he could not personally see or visit. So be it a book or a personal blog, you need to write. Create and publicize a log of ideas. Develop and share a backstory to every sermon. Tell the world how you did your latest website redesign. Recycle your ideas into a series of articles. Share each so that others can benefit. Churches around the world are eager to see how others are solving similar problems.
Social media is a powerful tool. It is an arena to broadcast all that quality work you are creating. When you publish content, be sure to send it out to several social media outlets. You can send a custom message. Or save time and schedule posts for multiple platforms using tools like Buffer and HootSuite. Regardless, share your content and ask colleagues and friends to re-share as well.
As you move out into the wide world of social media, you will see how tiny your personal brand is. You may have a few followers from church, as well as friends and family, but you will start out small. You are likely to follow some mentors who have massive audiences of their own. It is easy to be jealous of their success. I strongly caution you to not fall into this trap. Continue to produce regular quality content and eventually your stage and audience will grow. Plus over time you will cultivate a small but loyal following that will provide quality feedback and support.
When your personal brand grows, remember whom you serve. It is Jesus' church, not your own. It is the identity that He gave you that matters, not the world's. Pray for guidance, and as an extra precaution, submit your digital life to regular examination. Have elders and/or mentors review your personal brand. Give them access to all your accounts and let them see a raw, unfiltered view of what you are doing. Your focus on Jesus and their wisdom should keep you moving in a positive direction.
I encourage all reading this to consider cultivating your personal brand. Whether you like it or not, every time you post on social media, you are creating a brand. Every digital interaction with friends, family, and "fans" shapes your platform. Does it reflect a humble life of service? Or is it food for a hungry media out to portray a pastor abusing their fame. Cautiously move ahead with the platform you are given. Because to ignore it is to ignore a path God has set in front of you.
Image courtesy of Davide Guglielmo