Research results: creating a shared sense of MB identity and the MB Herald’s role
In August 2015, the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches executive commissioned 6P Marketing to carry out a research project. The research was comprised of 20 in-depth interviews with MB pastors and provincial conference chairs across Canada as well as an online survey for MB Herald readers nationally.
Research objectives were as follows:
- Identify the types of Herald content (stories, info, resources) that have most value to MBs
- Understand if / how the most desirable content differs by age group
- Identify the most effective mediums (i.e., print, digital) for reaching MBs across Canada
- Understand if / how medium preferences (the way info is delivered) differs by age group
- Understand if the Herald name/brand is an asset when trying to gain readership from a higher percentage of the MB body.
Response / Participation
The online survey was completed by 747 readers, with 42 readers submitting a printed copy. With this level of quantitative participation, we have a 95% confidence level (+ /- 3.5%) in the survey results. Note: the conclusions from the 20 in-depth research interviews with MB leaders (14 pastors and 6 provincial moderators) had high correlation with the quantitative (survey) results.
Building a shared sense of MB identity and community
Research participants were asked to rate their level of agreement with the following statement on a scale from one to ten:
“Nurturing a shared sense of identity and community among Mennonite Brethren churches across Canada is valuable.”
The majority of participants indicated they do indeed value the nurturing of a shared sense of MB identity and community, with an average rating of 8.4. More than half of survey participants identified the MB Herald as having a role in helping to cultivate this sense of shared identity (54%).
Most valuable types of content that readers are seeking:
- Stories on other Canadian MB churches (47%)
- Theological explanations, issues from an MB perspective, Bible studies (40%)
- Reports on missions and outreach (25%)
- Personal testimonies (14%)
- Event information (6%).
Most desirable content by age group
The most frequent responses in the in-depth research interviews with MB leaders showed that the desire and need for content is similar across all age groups but different mediums are required to deliver it. Interviewees also stated that:
- All ages need to hear stories focused on others in their age group
- Some variation pending age:
- Youth (sexual ethics, relationships, peer pressure)
- Adults (Scripture, family issues, money management)
- Seniors (health, what’s happening with MB friends across country).
Understanding medium preferences by age group
According to survey results, the effectiveness of mediums is affected by age in the following way:
- 25–34-year-olds chose print as their number one medium (33%) as did (36%) of 65–75-year-olds (age +74 is 50%)
- 45–54-year-olds chose websites with online articles as number one (34%) vs. 25–34-year-olds (20% in top two) and (36% in top two) for 65–74 year-olds.
- 25–34-year-olds chose social media as one of their top two mediums (26%) vs. 8% of 65–75-year-olds.
Leader interviews frequently indicated that a medium’s effectiveness is correlated with age, with older generations preferring print while younger people are more inclined toward digital. Besides being more screen-focused, younger people need mediums that provide opinion and dialogue opportunities (i.e., Facebook).
Perceptions of the Herald name and overall satisfaction
The Herald name is an asset for those who know it and not likely an obstacle for reaching a larger percentage of the church body.
The magazine is viewed as most beneficial to people aged 55–64 years (by 35% of respondents), then 65–74 year-olds (by 24%) and 45–54 year-olds (by 21%). Only 1% of survey participants identify the Herald as being most beneficial to people 24 years of age and younger.
On a scale from 1 to 10, readers put their likeliness to recommend the Herald at a 7 and leaders at an 8, making them satisfied, but not active promoters of the publication. Most leaders said their likeliness to recommend the Herald to someone is the same regardless of the age of the person – with the clarification that they’d refer people over 30 years of age to a printed copy of the magazine vs. sending a link to an article or online resource to those under the age of 30.
Overall, the research process revealed that having a shared sense of identity and community with other MBs across Canada is considered important to Herald-reading Mennonite Brethren, and the MB Herald is seen as helping foster that shared sense of identity.
Herald readers have significant satisfaction with the content the publication provides.
The Herald’s content is seen as valuable to a wide range of age groups but active promotion along with additional mediums are required in order to reach a younger demographic. There is potential to have it grow and reach more of the church body through a mix of print and online / digital mediums (i.e., Facebook, app).
Brent Smith is the marketing strategist at 6P Marketing and leads the market research, brand strategy and marketing planning activities at 6P Marketing.
Watch Brent’s presentation of the survey results at the special general meeting breakout sessions Oct. 21, 2015, in Winnipeg.
Download the presentation slides:
Communication Research Results
Read citizen blogger reports on the session:
Back to the future on the MB Herald
Time for a family meeting?
Updated Nov. 10: report and graphics added
Sounds like we made a wrong turn in the road for the readers of the Herald. I also agree with the suggestion that MBs need a vehicle such as the social network for communication with and for the under 35 age group