Photo Credit: "Piggy Bank" by Pictures of Money, July 25, 2014 via Flickr. CC2.0 Photo Credit: "Piggy Bank" by Pictures of Money, July 25, 2014 via Flickr. CC2.0

My newsfeed is full of them, and I bet yours is too: advertisements. But not just the sponsored ads and promotions from major companies that we’ve come to expect, but from our very own friends. “Let me help you on your weight loss journey!” “You’ll see results in less than a week!” “Join my team today!” “Earn money wherever you are!” and all the hot sales and special promotions and before-and-after pictures and on and on.

And if I’m being honest with you, I’m getting a little disheartened. Because, frankly, some of these methods saturating your feed and dictating your social calendar aren’t flowing from the values that guide us and the virtues we seek as Catholic Christian women.

The year I moved to South Bend was a big year for me – I got married, got pregnant, and started a new job. But it was also such a difficult year for me because I had a really hard time making new friends. And I was really discouraged by how intertwined social life and person-to-person networking were in my community. Every ladies’ night out was connected to a party where we were invited – and encouraged - to purchase something; acquaintances would reach out to connect with me one-on-one and inevitably invite me to host a party; women would ask if I’d ever considered becoming a distributor. But even though I was connecting with people, there was no connection. No relationship beyond salesman and customer. I always felt pressure to buy or host because that’s how this works. Even though these were wonderful, incredible, holy women who would never manipulate me consciously, the companies they were working for knew exactly what they were doing. And I felt used.

Yes, all sales are based on some kind of relationship, I know this. But while I expect a sales/consumer relationship with my wireless carrier, I just don’t expect it from my friends, or the people I worship with. And while I want to be supportive of people, especially other moms trying to find a way to work from home, I can’t help but feel like there’s a zeal that accompanies this type of marketing that needs to be tempered by prudence.

I’d like to offer 4 questions to serve as an examination for anyone involved in marketing - whether it’s a small business, your own writing, or even a ministry. (These are questions I ask myself in my own work, and I’m offering them here not to shame anyone or make anyone uncomfortable, but because I think, as Christian and Catholic women, these questions are worth asking!)

Am I honoring the dignity of the person?

A mentor in ministry used to challenge me to build relationships for relationships’ sake, not just to build a foundation for later invitation and engagement. People are keen to this; they can sense when there’s an agenda. We ought to tread carefully, because use is the opposite of love.

We have to ask ourselves: Are we engaging in relationship for the sole purpose of selling to them? Do we find ourselves seeing and thinking of people only as potential clients and customers? Have I put pressure or guilt on others?

Am I being genuine?

Especially on social media, I’ve noticed how many posts coming from different people are identical, even when they are meant to describe a personal experience: how it’s changed their life; how thrilled they are every day to be a part of it; and how easy it is, so easy! The thing is, it just doesn’t ring true. Sales is hard. Work is hard. Coming up with original posts several times a day is hard. So tell the truth, because the people you are recruiting deserve it.

Let’s be honest with ourselves and each other: Am I being genuine in my sales pitch? Do I stand by the things I’m saying? Would I buy this product – at the price I’m selling it? Would I recommend it to a friend even if there were no financial benefit to me?

Am I being a person of integrity?

With so many health products out there being marketed person-to-person, it’s important to know the science behind what you sell. Personal integrity requires that we do due diligence to make sure that what we market and sell is safe and good for the person and does not harm.

We have to know: Is it safe? Is there (preferably independent) research to backup its claims? Do I understand at least the basic science behind it? Am I confident that I am doing no harm?

Am I being a good steward?

It’s an important question for us to ask, in any profession or line of business. We have limited resources; and not just time and money, but also our very hearts. God endowed us with a heart for hospitality as a gift, not a tool.

We should ponder: Is this taking undue time and resources from my family? Are the financial practices of this company responsible? Am I respectful of other people’s stewardship?

I can’t help but hope that I still have a friend or two by the end of this. But I’m asking these questions, and asking you to ponder these questions because they are important. Our faith puts a great emphasis on the dignity of work, and how that work can serve the person and builds up society. Are we letting that faith inform our business practice?

What’s your experience? How do you balance the demands of marketing and promotion with Christian values?


Copyright 2016 Megan Swaim.