In the last post I started with a list of four “sins” we commit when planning and communicating at local church level (if not more levels):
- A planification of activities centered in our needs or “according” to our internal “standards”.
- Lack of Communications department or responsible.
- Lack of coordination of activities between all the departments or ministries (beyond the distribution of weekends so none steps anyone else’s toes).
- Lack of strategy to coordinate with social agenda.
We already reviewed point #1. Planification of activities centered in “our” needs or “according” to our internal “standards”. Today we will go with #2.
Lack of communications responsible.
Before we continue, I want to clarify that I am not going to mention an exhaustive list of tools like which kind of social media, platforms and other data we should use. I am only going to workout the main guidelines of why we should improve the communications and how, but without details. We will have time in other articles in the future.
Normally the communications department or ministry falls upon the pastor or church elder in the best case. Some exceptions are found when someone good-willed is nominated for this. And even in those cases we find that communications ministry is reduced to on-line streaming of the sermon, which is good in itself, but not enough.
Others include the church bulletin or newsletter into it. If they really do a true “Newsletter” is an addition to the church, but mostly is reduced to a flyer with announces which is handed out at the entrance of the church or e-mailed.
If we have the blessing of counting with a good specialist in communications, marketing, journalist or any other person related to the media or communications areas, try to engage this person into the ministry. Sometimes it is better to nominate a church member who is strongly related with the local community, and in case of lack of time or of abilities with the media or new technologies, we could appoint some assistants to him, but please, we need to understand that this position is not only about the sound systems of the church and/or playing the Power Point on screen.
It has to be a person with a vision of the community and the contacts around the church. A Communications responsible should be included in the church committee to give its perspective, and to be acquainted of what can communicate and what canNOT communicate. Why should we entrust one person like that? Because one person with this kind of vision, at the moment of planning the church activities could give serious advice of timing, finding resources, and to whom we should communicate our plans so we can be heard and noticed in the community.
Oftenly we have great ideas as a church, we have great plans that with the right focus, might be very useful and interesting for our neighbors around the neighborhood, but we lack the means to reach them out and to let them know about what are our plans, what we do and let the people decide if want to join or not our activities.
One person dedicated only to do this will have the time to think how to communicate, to who, when and through which means. Normally is the same team or ministry responsible who prepares the activity who is/are in charge of preparing the publicity and to communicate the activity, leaving this important part of the project as something for the last moment, paying less attention to it because they are focused in the activity itself, or in the best case, they have time but do not know to who, when and what are the best means to promote the activity.
The first task we should ask to a Communications director is to prepare a Media Agenda or Address-book. He must to know all the local radio stations in the city/village, as well as local TV stations, local newspapers and bulletins. Why? Because the National or Regional media are a target that sometimes could be interested in our activities, but mostly they will oversee our communications as less important since are “too local” and their audience is much wider.
But the local media are targeting the audience that we look for the most: our neighborhood. Since the local media are much difficult to develop some interesting news for their audience, are more open to receive press releases which concern the local life. At the other side, we have our local audiences which consume the local media most earnestly than the major media. I have not seen anyone yet who is able to read the entire Wall Street Journal everyday, but I know a lot of people who read their local newspaper, mostly weekly, from first page to end, because the most of the news will affect their life, or are related to their immediate interests. At the same time, they recognize the most of the people featured in that issue of the local newspaper, so… in any case, they are interested by different reasons.
The authorities is another target to reach. So we need to encourage the pastoral team (pastor, church elders and first deacon/deaconess) to join the first visits to all the authorities, media and journalists with our communications director. By doing this, we will build strong public relations within our community and we will open our doors more easily to the “outsiders” giving a real sensation of transparence.
This takes a long time, and that’s why we should think in someone who could take the responsibility several years, in order to preserve the links and bridges created. Without this step, any strategy or programmation is quite useless, but for our internal pubic or audiences, to say, our church members.
By doing these things seen till now we would have achieved:
- Preparation of the local church to receive new activities, and with them, new people in our church.
- Preparation of a system to bring the information from the church to the outside, targeting those who will bring to a larger audience our information and activities.
Now we have set up the platform and tools. The next step will be the coordination and strategy.