We can do nothing well in a consistent manner without being intentional. This is why planning is important. Coming up with a strategy focuses effort. The same applies to church communications. Before you tweet, create the bulletin, or post an ad on Facebook, you need to be clear on why you’re doing it. To be effective, crafting messages with care is important. Make sure you send it the right way to the right platform is another piece of the puzzle. These are a few of the things we’ve looked at in relation to church communications strategy.
Church communications strategies have many aspects to them.
A heads up: you’re not going to be always great in everything. But, some effort will make a big difference for your church its work in your community.
With that, we look at another important part of your comms strategy: people. Plans, on their own, will make no difference. The impact will only happen when we act on the plans. Acting on whatever strategy you put together requires people. The church has the highest level of diversity of gifts. We all have something unique to contribute.
No strategy is complete without people in it. Actually, no strategy is good if it doesn’t include the right people in it.
I talk about what “you” could do, but who is this “you”?
Who To Include On The Team?
Everything said, in varying degrees, steers the church in a particular way. Your message, and how you say it matters. This is one of the reasons senior church leaders must be part of the communications team. They might not handle the day to day kind of stuff, but they must have input.
Foremost, they give direction to the church. Church leaders need to be custodians of the tone and messaging. One of the most important things with any communications strategy is clear messaging. Conflicting messages confuse the community and is counterproductive.
Make sure there’s a senior leader who can speak into the messaging. They don’t have to be day to day, hands-on kind of stuff but their involvement in the processes is crucial.
After you’ve answered what you want to achieve and how, it the next question is, “Who do we need?”. You can answer by putting forward names and criteria. It doesn’t have to be either or, it can be both and. Sometimes the skills or qualities in a person help you clarify the criteria and vice versa.
If you haven’t had any formal structure don’t be afraid to start broad. While clarity is important and recommended, a general outline might serve you best. This is helpful where you haven’t had formalized structure in your communications department.
Make note of the technical skill you think you’ll need as well as the other characteristics. For example, does the person consider themselves a Christ follower? To what extent should that matter to you?
On A Practical (Side)Note: Examples of Roles
This might be redundant but it may be helpful for someone or a church somewhere. Some roles:
- Writer: If you had a choice, you don’t want someone you do more than type but a wordsmith. Someone who wields words as a tool. Someone with a good command of written language is needed.
- Design: Sometimes the message gets lost because of its presentation. The reason plating (as in food presentation) is important, is that we eat not only with our palettes but our eyes too. Good presentation is not only about making something look nice. It is about helping your church receive the message better.
- Photography: Photos are important. Instagram, one of the world’s biggest social media platforms is all about that. Don’t miss the opportunity to do it well. You need this person if you’re to steer away from stock photos, which is most desirable.
- Video (camera and editing): This is a no-brainer with how the world is working now. Visuals in communications augment the message. Sometimes the visuals themselves are the message. It is worth thinking about.
- Social media: In case I need to say more about this, here goes. Despite the scourge of fake news, most people still get their news from social media. Social media is not something we do once a week, it is where people live now, period. It doesn’t make sense for a church not to leverage it for better use.
Staff And Or Volunteers
If you have resources or means to hire someone to be on staff then great. Whether you’re recruiting staff or volunteers, intentionality is still important. It would be great to have some on staff head up communications. Provided, of course, they have the skills and expertise. If not, it is not the end of the world.
There are ways of working around this through volunteers and asking for help. Whatever you do, remember that every team needs a captain.
Way Of Working
If your church is fortunate enough to have staff, make sure you don’t lock out volunteers. You might have people who can contribute in different ways. For example, there might be a photographer who might not be always available. Get creative in how you can use them. They could do a couple of photo shoots throughout the year or at some events.
The video guy might not edit for you but they shoot a series of short small group series or work on an ad from time to time.
Scaling & Empowerment
One of the areas many churches struggle is being at the mercy of a few. I mean when there are only a few people who can do particular things. And, when that person leaves or isn’t available, for whatever reason, the church is in some kind of crisis.
Every lead actor must have an understudy. Growing the impact of your communications means including capacity building in your strategy. Deciding who to give an assignment to should because you have a big pool of talent is the kind of problem you want.
As you build your team, remember to make sure that it doesn’t have a single point of failure. What happens when John can’t post to Facebook? Or, there’s an urgent need to respond to a message on Twitter and Sarah isn’t available?
Questions To Move You Forward From Here
In no particular order, here are some questions to help you get started:
- What do we want to achieve and why?
- What skills or which people do we need?
- How will they work as a team?
- Who on the senior leadership team helps keep us on message?
- What resources do we have or need?
Start simple. Start somewhere. If all you’re going to do is have one or two people create content for Facebook posts that’s great. If all you can do is get a one person who will commit to a quarterly or bi-annual newsletter roll with that. If a photographer can only commit to taking photos one service every six months, that is great.