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Research: ‘Open hearts’ campaign helps perceptions

By United Methodist News Service*
Feb. 14, 2008 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)

The Rev. Larry Hollon

The "open hearts, open minds, open doors" media campaign of The United Methodist Church is effectively communicating key characteristics of the denomination to the public, according to new research.

Telephone interviews conducted last fall indicate that those exposed to the church's nearly 8-year-old campaign were much more likely to hold favorable views of The United Methodist Church than those who did not recall the advertising.

"One of the challenges that denominations typically face is that people don’t really know that much about them," said the Rev. Larry Hollon, chief executive of United Methodist Communications.

"The survey data gives us a snapshot of how others see us, and the indication is that the campaign has helped to reframe people's indistinct perceptions about the church into something more positive."

The church spent $5.5 million in 2007 on the campaign, which primarily paid for television ads but also included billboard ads and radio and cinema spots. Last August, the church began adding online ads to the mix. In 2006, the church spent more than $6 million on the "open hearts" campaign.

The study assessed 10 different statements about The United Methodist Church that reflect the intended communications within the advertising messages developed for the campaign. More than 1,200 respondents from six test markets were interviewed during September and October by the Barna Research Group in order to better understand how the denomination is positioned among adults ages 21-60 who do not attend a United Methodist church and are searching spiritually.

Among the findings:

  • Fifty-eight percent of respondents agreed that United Methodists care for and support each other, compared to 43 percent surveyed in 2002;
  • Fifty-seven percent believed United Methodists accept you for who you are, up from 45 percent in 2002;
  • Forty-one percent said United Methodists help you find deeper meaning and purpose in life, compared to only 26 percent in 2002; and
  • Fifty-one percent said United Methodists help people facing personal difficulty, up from 38 percent in 2002.

The church launched the campaign in 2001 with a threefold purpose: to increase awareness and recognition of basic United Methodist beliefs, promote willingness to visit a United Methodist church, and renew a sense of commitment among United Methodists.

Independent research is conducted annually to determine if the campaign is reaching those goals.

Other highlights of the 2007 research:

  • Forty-two percent of respondents surveyed said their impression of The United Methodist Church was very or somewhat favorable, up from 37 percent in 2006;
  • Fifty-four percent of those surveyed expressed a willingness to visit a United Methodist church, up from 47 percent in 2006; and
  • Fifty-nine percent recalled the tagline "Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors."

*This story is based on a news release from the office of public information at United Methodist Communications.

News media contact: Linda Green, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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