Katie Allred enjoys helping people learn how to share the gospel on the internet.
It is a passion and career she stumbled into unexpectedly — and early.
“When I was 9, I started a Harry Potter forum with some friends on the internet,” she said. “What happened there was we loved Harry Potter and went online to find people who wanted to talk about it. But we ended up creating a huge community.”
The online forum grew to more than 5,000 people, enough to win an award from J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series. Allred moderated that site from age 9 to 16.
“This was before social media even existed,” she said. “We were on AOL and MSN Chat in this forum we built ourselves as children.”
It was an interesting hobby but she was a “completely normal kid” and had other interests like soccer. She grew up at Mulberry Baptist Church in Maplesville, a place with deep roots for her family. Her great-grandfather, Wiley Tucker, built the church’s current building in the 1950s.
Allred’s Harry Potter hobby complemented her life in ways she wouldn’t have expected.
“That time was so crucial for me to learn how I loved sharing the gospel and sharing the gospel on the internet,” she explained. “These were real people, and I loved them and cared about them and wanted them to hear the gospel.”
Allred went on to study computer information systems at the University of Mobile, then got a master’s degree in web development from the University of Florida. She served as professor of marketing and software development for a while at UM, then in 2013 started working with Brentwood Baptist Church in Tennessee as web content manager.
Much like her forum, it was a role that expanded more than Allred expected.
“Brentwood Baptist grew from one church to nine churches, and I oversaw social media and websites for them,” she said.
During that time she also started a Facebook group called Church Communications.
“I knew I loved online community, and I had seen it work before. I thought I’d find five people who hate papyrus font as much as I do,” she joked.
Allred found more than 31,000. Though her real purpose behind the group wasn’t font related at all.
“I just wanted to help people share the gospel online,” Allred explained.
The group serves as a resource for marketing and communication strategies, as does the business she started with the same name.
Allred’s book, “Church Communications: Methods and Marketing,” released Aug. 15.
“It’s written as a textbook,” she noted. “I was writing it with my students in my classroom (back at UM) in mind.”
The book covers marketing strategy, branding, crisis communication and public relations. Allred said it offers a starting point for church leaders or volunteers who have no idea what they’re doing and, if it doesn’t offer the answers someone needs, helps them generate the right questions.
“And then you can ask the Church Communications community for more answers,” she added.