Hosting the UCC’s General Synod 28 in Tampa is a “train ride” that the Florida Conference will do but once, said the Rev. Kent Siladi, Conference minister. And all seem to be aboard.
“Florida's never done this before, and we won't do it again in our lifetime, so we've got to make this right,” said Siladi in announcing a statewide media blitz that will saturate the Sunshine State in promotion of Synod, which runs July 1-5.
“People in Florida are starting to understand what this will mean beyond the event itself,” says Siladi during the April 6 announcement. “This was a leveraging of the moment that presents a great opportunity for the Conference to increase its awareness of the wider church.”
The opportunity comes at a time when just 97 of the state’s 14,400 churches belong to the UCC, said Siladi. “If you look on a website that lists denominations in Florida, the United Church of Christ is listed under ‘Other.’"
“We have a real opportunity and witness to make at this moment through this media campaign,” said Siladi, “to let people in Florida know who we are and what our core values are.”
The theme of the media campaign is “Jesus didn’t reject people. Neither do we.” –– a direct tie-in to the UCC’s “ejector” ad.
“It’s a total campaign,” said Darlene Collins, marketing and sales associate in the UCC’s communication office. “We're going to blanket the whole state, including the top markets in Tallahassee, Tampa, Miami and Orlando.”
Collins said that the media blitz will include TV, radio, print and billboard advertising, in both English and Spanish.
Even in times of tight resources, said Siladi, donors are coming through. “We’re getting close [to our goal of $200,000],” Siladi said. “We are probably at the $160,000 point, and $100,000 of that will go to the media campaign.”
Among media targets will be local and weekly newspapers that "are always looking for stories," said Siladi. “We need to learn how to gauge media to let people know who the United Church of Christ is. We’re not well known in the South because people confuse us with the Church of Christ. ”
During fund raising, the Florida Conference’s strong connection with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers –– a farm workers justice organization that has worked closely with the UCC –– is not being forgotten, Siladi added. “We're going to be making a contribution to the community center they built a year ago,” he said. “It's the only place for the Immokalee workers to come together. It's a central gathering place, and they have a strong commitment to farmer justice in the workplace.”
The campaign also will contribute to the UCC’s Strategic Initiatives Fund.
Siladi says planning for the media blitz began last fall, with enthusiastic approval of the Conference board.
Another long-term benefit of the campaign, said Siladi, is the partnership the Conference has formed with the UCC’s national financial development office.
“I think it’s a model of the idea of one staff, that we all work for the United Church of Christ,” said Siladi. “This partnership notion is coming together in a very tangible, concrete way.”