There is no doubt that church communications can be a difficult career. Oftentimes, it’s an area that doesn’t get the full authority it needs. But as a church communicator, there are some ways you can help make your job more effective. Below are some common mistakes with solutions of how you can create a more effective communications department (even if you’re on your own).
Problem: Too rushed. Last minute requests are a too common, unwelcome part of any communication professional’s life. There are plenty of reasons for it, like poor planning or bad internal communication. Regardless, rushed communication rarely has the same impact as something more intentionally planned.
Solution: Create a system. The best part about a system is it creates purpose and consistency. There are many ways you could approach creating a system, but a common one for churches is a marketing request form. Questions on a document like this help give communicators a feel for the scope, audience and relevance of a particular project. Knowing some project basics is key in determining what avenues should be used to promote the activity, how much effort it requires and how it fits into the other events the church has planned.
Implementing such a process isn’t easy, especially in churches where different ministries are used to operating in a silo or getting whatever they want. But a system like this allows for more collaboration, which will lead to more effective communication to the right audience. The positive results of using a system will help create buy-in and trust.
Problem: Communication is not looked at as a service department. It can be easy to fall into the mindset that creative communicators know better than others how to do marketing. It’s a dangerous habit because it creates friction and ignorance. While you may understand crafting messages and graphic design, you don’t always understand the needs of all the people in your church.
Solution: Look at communications as a partnership. Good communicators need to rely on experts in other departments to gain knowledge on the people in that part of the church. There is no way a communication professional can know everything going on in a church. Much like creating a communication system, working in partnerships will help build trust and ultimately lead to more effective work.
Problem: Information overload. Far too often, communication pieces are loaded with lots of text for people to sift through. Guess what? They’re not going to do that. The average attention span of a human has fallen to that of a goldfish, so to reach them you have to say more with less.
Solution: Filter content and embrace images. One of the most important roles you have as a communicator is to take the complex and make it easy to understand. You have to take a paragraph and make it a sentence. Simplify your initial message and give people a place to go if they want to learn more. A great way to simplify it is to use images as part of your messaging. A picture can add emotion or show what words can’t. The right icon or illustration can grab someone’s attention.
Problem: Missing emotion. Great communication moves someone to take action. Rarely does generic, routine language do that. If someone isn’t moved by great vision, felt need or pure joy, they are less likely to engage deeper with your church
Solution: Use impactful language and tell someone’s story. The words you use matter. How can you create an image in someone’s mind with the text you write? Is there a stat that will help people realize how their inaction isn’t acceptable? Use the limited space you have to make your compelling case. One of the best ways to be emotionally impactful is to tell stories. What kind of life change happened because of the work God’s done through your church? How did someone make their way to being baptized? What joy came to a kid in the children’s ministry thanks to awesome volunteers?
Problem: Untargeted communication. One message doesn’t fit all and the current trend is more customized communication. Effectively communicating with the different groups of people in your church takes targeted messaging. Newer believers have different needs than long time members. Men consume information differently than women.
Solution: Intentionally think about who you’re trying to reach. As you’re working on a communications project, keep your target audience in mind. If you’re creating an ad for a women’s group event, what is the felt need of that audience? What is the best way to reach them? Thinking this way will not only make your messaging stronger, but it will also help you know which avenue is the best to use.
It can be helpful to make persona groups where you create different, fake people who represent various audiences in your church. They could include people like stay-at-home moms, seasoned believers, non-believers, teens, men, etc. This gives you a face to think about as you’re writing and designing to reach that audience.