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WORKSHOP #15: "Surf's Up! Raising Your Internet Profile"

[This workshop discusses using a web page to promote your church's organ, music program and musicians. If you do not have access to a web page, I'm here to help. Read on! --Dan]

Each month when I prepare the Monthly Links page, I spend some time looking at church websites. As a web visitor, I assume that a church's website is a reflection of the church itself and view the information posted about its music program as an indication of that church's musical health. It's certainly obvious when a music program is thriving and the church members are proud of their organ.

Surprisingly, there are many church websites that do not include a picture of their organ and some leave out references to their music program altogether. In an age where low salaries and under-appreciated church musicians are all too common, church musicians can't afford to be taken for granted. Ensuring that the music program is properly represented on the church's website is for church musicians a step toward improving conditions for our profession in general.

PRELIMINARIES
First things first, I want to make sure that everybody has access to a website. If your church already has a website, great! I'll come back to you in a moment. If your church has a website but resists your utilization of it (and, believe me, this happens), you may need a "work-around" such as the one I'm about to propose for those whose churches don't have a website.

If your church does not have a website, it should. A website is a community outreach with benefits that far outweigh its cost. If, however, your church has no interest in setting up a website or is dragging its feet, please contact me. I can help you set up a web page for your organ (or for you as a performer or for your church) for as little as $10 a year. That's right, $10 buys you a web page for a whole year, including your very own Internet address. Making your Internet presence known doesn't have to be expensive (or complicated). As an example, here is a link to a web page I set up for the organ at the church where I play.
http://www.ThirdChurchOrgan.com

FOR BEGINNERS
Now that we're all online, here are my suggestions on how to use your web page or your church's website to start raising your profile.

1. The Organ
Starting with the organ is a good idea because it let's people know that this isn't all about you. You're putting the church first and the organ is generally your church's biggest outward expression of the value it places on music and its commitment, financial and otherwise, to the music program. In addition to making your organ the visual centerpiece of your web page, list the organ's specifications; people who love organs can't get enough of this stuff. Include your organ's history because every organ has a story; it just needs someone to tell it. Finally, provide more photos, lots of photos. Looking at organs is almost as fun as playing them. NOTE: Don't worry about what your organ looks like. Every organ is different and has its own charm. If it's being used in your worship service, its importance to your church should be celebrated, regardless of its appearance.

2. Communicate
Include your email on the web page so people can contact you with comments. Increased communication is valuable and necessary.

3. Inform
Use your church's bulletin boards and program/bulletin to refer people to your web page. In addition to letting them know that you have put in some extra work, it shows that you care enough to want to share it with them.

4. Advertise
Submit your web page to other websites. A good place to start is BACHorgan.com but don't forget your chamber of commerce, your local AGO Chapter and your denomination's headquarters and their publications. You could even use your web page as an excuse to call the local paper for a profile on the organ or the music program or you!

ADVANCED PROJECTS
BACHorgan.com offers FREE BLOG software that you can combine with a web page or your church's website to create an updateable source of information about your music program.

1. List Your Music
A website can be used to list your weekly music in the same way that you may currently use the bulletin boards in your church. While it may be a duplication of the information on the bulletin boards, that's OK. During the week, while they're online, and more and more people spend more and more of their time there, a church member might forget who composed that tune that they're still whistling from your postlude. They can look up the composer on your web page!

2. Extra-Added Value
You may currently use your church's program/bulletin to offer additional information about your music. A website offers much more space for information, about the composer, for instance, as well as the capacity to offer links to other resources. You could even use a teaser in the program/bulletin to attract people to your web page. How about a trivia question? Don't forget to include the words and/or translations for the week's anthem and/or solo(s).

3. Reeling Them In
Try posting your music and additional information BEFORE Sunday. People enjoy music more when they know a little something about it. In addition to preparing them for your musical choices, you may actually be helping them to prepare for worship. If getting this much information together ahead of time sounds daunting, let me refer you to another of my FREE Workshops, "Avoid the 'Full-time Job, No Time to Practice' Blues!" which includes many time-saving tips:
http://www.BACHorgan.com/Workshop02.asp

FINAL THOUGHTS
Speaking of work, you may be saying, isn't this just a lot of extra work? Well, yes, it is extra work but the difference is that this is work that will benefit you directly, as a professional and as an individual. In addition to connecting you with your church membership, your web page can connect you to a worldwide network of colleagues and organ lovers. If you're feeling under-appreciated at church, maintaining a web page will show not only that you value what you do, but also that what you do is important because other people value it, too. Sometimes seeing what other people value is all it takes for some people to begin valuing it, too. So call your webmaster, or email me, and start raising your profile now.

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