Starting in Church Communications

It can be an overwhelming task getting started in church communications. There are high expectations for the role and doing communications well often means asking tough questions about a church’s overall vision. So if you’re new to the role, or looking to revamp the way you do your job, here are six steps to do communications better.

Go on a listening and learning tour. It’s good for you to know exactly what each area of your church is doing. Plus, learning about your church initiatives, instead of storming in like you already know everything, helps you build trust with staff and volunteers. It’s important to realize that marketing communications is a service department. To best support and meaningfully market ministries, you have to understand what you’re communicating. Successful communication campaigns over time build more trust, which will allow your ideas for change to get a friendlier reception in the future.

Audit your current communications tools and overall brand. Gather all of the communications pieces your church is doing, like brochures, bulletins, a print out of the website homepage, etc., and lay them on a table. Do they look like they’re coming from the same organization? Are they actually working the way people intended? This is a good way to assess what should stay and what needs to go. Plus, it helps you get a feel for how the church is presenting itself. This, along with how you do in-service announcements and welcome guests, will give you the basis for where your brand is now compared to where you hope it will be.

Establish a communications system. There are a couple of ways to look at this. First, you may want to create a communications project request form. Make it simple enough where it’s not a burden for someone to fill out, but useful enough that it lets you understand the project and goals. Creating this process will help you establish a system that gives you enough time to create, while also letting you decide the right communications solution for the project need.

That naturally leads into the second part of a communications system. Create a communications matrix that lays out the possible communications paths along with how much exposure each marketing tool has. Communications requests that have appeal to a large number of people in your church, or are in line with ministry goals, get more attention on the highest exposure platforms. More niche projects will be promoted along other avenues. (We went into more detail on this in two previous posts here and here.)

Grow sustainably. As you dive into a communications role, there will likely be a lot of things you want to change or have been told to change. Taking them on all at once can be disastrous, leading to lackluster initiatives and mistrust from the people you’re trying to help. Pick the most important projects and work on them first. It’s more effective to deliver one thing well than a bunch of projects haphazardly. Set priorities and move forward methodically.

Be ready for criticism. Almost every church communications person I know has faced friction when they first took on the role. This is especially true if marketing communications hasn’t been a staff position in the past. There are people that won’t like change. Others will be uncomfortable moving out of their “do whatever they want” silos. They’ll sense that you’re saying their past projects stink, even though your intention is to help them improve. Building trust takes time. But when ministry leaders see people more engaged in their initiatives thanks to your communications help, they’ll appreciate you more.

Celebrate victories. It’s easy to get lost in the daily churn of pumping out communications projects. It may even feel like the job you’re doing is thankless. Set achievable goals for yourself. Acknowledge when you’ve met them with success. Include others in those celebrations. It’s always good to take time to reflect on how far you’ve come.

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