I used to live in Salt Lake City, where I worked for a Mormon-owned and run ad agency*. Not for long, mind you, but long enough to get a solid glimpse, and an understanding that the faith is loaded with advertising, PR and marketing talent.
Now, as two Mormon candidates are making a run for the Oval Office, The Washington Post is on the story.
The Mormon public relations machine goes back more than a century, to the period after the church renounced polygamy and Utah was allowed to become a state. They have always stood apart in the religious world when it comes to marketing. Savvy and aggressive, they were among the first to have a public relations shop, run public-service announcements and have a 1-800 number.
Today, the church’s site lds.org is the most-visited of any faith group, and Mormon church-wide conferences sometimes rank at the top of Twitter while they’re underway.
“They have infused SEO into their culture,” said Justin Briggs, a consultant who wrote a well-read blog post called “Breaking Down the Mormon SEO Strategy.”
Of course, the church is also adept at sales and customer retention. Maybe you’ve been approached by LDS missionaries recently. Let’s have a look at their persistence and audacity.
One area the LDS branding experts failed to address is the term “Elder.” A 20-something person is not an elder; therefore, the title robs missionaries of some of their power. By their very nature, missionaries are a presumptuous lot–they don’t need to reinforce that negative with a title that instantly offends.
Interestingly, some ex-Mormons, notably Dooce and her husband, are also quite skilled at delivering a message and building online audiences.
*Blain Olsen White Gurr has since been acquired by Rare Method of Calgary.