How to Evaluate Your Church's Communication Strategy

Bryan Haley

Now's a great time to take a step back and look at your church's communication. Here are some things to think about.

Show Notes

Episode Summary

As we get ready to hit refresh on a new calendar year, it's a great time to take a step back and look at your church's communication strategy—not just with a new year, but now that we're in the middle of the ministry season. Let's refocus for 2022.

Mentioned in this Episode

Transcript

Bryan:

Hey, church communicator. Welcome to the Church Juice Podcast. I'm Bryan Haley, I'm the producer of Church Juice. And I'm joined as always by my co-host, Jeanette Yates. We are here energizing church communications.

Jeanette:

Today, we're getting energized about the end of the year.

Bryan:

That's right. It is almost here.

Jeanette:

Yeah, I know. It's so exciting. So, last episode, we gave you a quick, easy list of things to do towards the end of the year, as you're getting ready to wrap things up. We all know that church communication doesn't really wrap up, it goes right into the new year. So, today, we're going to be talking about looking beyond just the cosmetic things, like changing photos and stuff like that, and diving into really evaluating your communications so that you can take it to the next level.

Bryan:

That's right.

Jeanette:

So, this is a deeper dive into some of those things that towards the end of the year, we want to look into as we plan 2022. So, that's what we're going to talk about today.

Bryan:

Yeah, I'm really excited because I think, whether it's reasonable or not, the end of the year, the turn of a calendar, it's a good time for us as communicators to really think through what we're doing, how are we doing? Do we need to set goals? Do we need to change how we're communicating, what we're communicating, those types of things. So, I think these are some really valuable, really practical things that we're going to talk about today. So, yeah, if you don't, get a paper and pen already. Yeah, let's dive in.

Bryan:

So, the first thing that I want to talk about is you actually sent me this article that I wrote at the beginning of the year, talking about how I thought communications was going to head into this year. And some of it played out, some of it didn't, of course, like predicting the future. But one thing that I have seen really amp up this year, I guess, is that communication is so scattered, because we have hybrid, you have in person, you have online, you have all over the board. So, communication is so scattered, where I think pre-pandemic, we were really trying to focus on centralizing and simplifying. So, I think that's one thing that we need to spend some time addressing and talking about. What do you think?

Jeanette:

Well, and I think too, and this happened obviously more so in the last couple of years, maybe than usually, but church communicators are always tasked with adding the latest communication method. Oh, this new platform or this new mode communication or this new tool or widget or whatever. And we tend to jump on something and get something and then maybe it works, and maybe it's a great thing, but maybe it doesn't. And so, now is a good time to evaluate what your communication platforms are, how you're using them and whether or not they're effective. And then to your point, like you said, centralizing and honing down on the most effective ones.

Bryan:

Yeah. One thing that I have found, even just in my own church, is about a third of our church is still online. So, trying to communicate to an audience that is basically completely in person and also completely online and trying to find that balance is difficult. So, finding a way for you as a communicator, thinking through what is the best place for you to put all the information. How do you centralize all of that information and all of that data into one place? And then we've had talked a little bit about omnichannel communication or marketing, using those channels to point back to your centralized place.

Bryan:

Some people, some churches or businesses or whatever, call it a hub, but just thinking through like how do you create one central place that is accessible, but also where people know that they can rely on it. So, they know that they can go and get their information or register or volunteer, whatever it is.

Jeanette:

Yes. And so, typically, especially in church communications, when we're talking about that central hub or central location for communication, we're talking usually about a website, but having that website be an effective tool also takes some work. And I think we're going to talk about that here in our next section for diving into evaluating the method. So, your website is really, and probably should be your central hub of information, where people are like, "Oh, I wonder if X, Y, Z," they know it's going to be on the website. And then of course, it's your job as the communicator, perhaps, maybe you have a team. I hope you have a team. Maybe it's not your job, but person in charge of the website is supposed to make all that information easy to find once somebody gets there.

Jeanette:

They know it's there, but can they find it? And that's a whole other podcast. But for the purposes of this, let's talk a little bit about looking at where we stand with our website, the analytics and things like that. What would you suggest people do to address that? Where are these analytics? What are they looking for?

Bryan:

So, if you're taking time to evaluate communication, which if you're going to figure out what's working, what's not, you need to evaluate. So, one of the cool things about newer technology is that it's so much easier to track and to figure out if it's actually working. The bulletin, you could figure it out based on how many were left or how many got thrown away before people even left the building, but that's about it. But like you were talking about on websites, we have a lot of analytics. So, if you're using Google Analytics or whatever you're using, there are a lot of tools that you can use there to figure out really whatever you want to know.

Bryan:

So, what pages are people going to? How long are they staying either on a page or on your website? Those kinds of things help you figure out who's coming to your website, because if it's someone new, they're probably going to visit certain content. And if they're members, they're going to visit something else, right?

Jeanette:

Right. And you want a good mix. I think we talk a lot about the website being how new people find you. And so, the front page of your website needs to be a gear for your guest. We talk about that a lot. But really, your members should feel comfortable going to your website too, to find the information they need as well. And so, when you're looking at those analytics, if you're not seeing people going to your landing pages, your signup pages for stuff, your giving pages, then there's a chance that you need to address that issue. Is it that it's too hard to find? Is it that you're not communicating that that is there? That kind of thing.

Jeanette:

So, it tells you some information and then you have to interpret it, but it does give you a direction to look. You talked about bulletins and we talked about websites. So, yes, like bulletins, many people, bulletins will be here long after all of us. Long after us, Bryan.

Bryan:

Yep.

Jeanette:

And so, yes, it's easy for you to tell if the bulletin is working to get information out there. People at my church will still take the bulletin home and put it on their refrigerator. I mean, that's the thing that can still be valuable. But like you said, if you're picking up a lot of bulletins on the floor and they're in the trash, then maybe that's not an effective thing. And address that, you can make it more effective, but you need to address that. What about emails?

Bryan:

So, emails are a great way for you to communicate, because even though it comes around every year that email is dead, email is not going anywhere, neither is the paper bulletin for a lot of churches. But whether you're using MailChimp or some other email provider, you can get those same analytics. You can see how many people are opening your emails, how many people are clicking through, you can see what they're clicking on. So, you can really evaluate what is working and what's not. So, a good thing to try that we talked about in that email episode is really A/B testing or just trial and error, finding things, trying different things, seeing what works. You only know what's not working when you try.

Jeanette:

Again, with the interpretation of these insights that you're looking at, if you see your open rate's good, but your click through rate isn't, and then you also are looking at your website analytics and realizing people aren't getting to where they need to go, then you can say, "Okay, there's a disconnect between when they're opening the email and then what I'm asking them to do to click through, and you can adjust from there. And that's really what this is all about. If it's working and you're seeing these stats are showing you what you want to see, great. If not, it's a great time to reevaluate.

Bryan:

Absolutely.

Jeanette:

I'm going to let you ask me the next one because I'm ready.

Bryan:

One of your favorite topics, I think, let's talk about social media. How do you spend time evaluating your social media presence?

Jeanette:

So, unfortunately, especially with Facebook and Instagram, if you're managing a page or a group or both, or a profile on Instagram, they will push those insights into your face all the time. So, it's almost like you don't need to go hunt for them. Taking a moment, and I typically, especially I do it once a month, really to see a month's worth of content, but you can also go out 60 days and see just the basic information of like, when are people on the platform? When are they engaging most with your content? What types of content they're engaging with? Things like that. And again, you can make micro-adjustments throughout the year, but then at the end of the year, as you're keeping track of all this throughout the year, you can look at that and say, "Okay, these are the types of content that seem to be resonating. We need to go more into that."

Jeanette:

But another thing that's really interesting with engagement rate is there's several the different ways that depending on which accounts you follow, blogs you read for social media management, they'll say you should calculate engagement like this or like that. And so, one of the things I've learned to do is not just look at this is how many people like this post or commented on this post, but really, so what? Really diving into what does that mean and is that driving any action. And of course, hopefully, you have goals for your social media accounts and is that action, is that engagement driving anybody to our goal or are they just telling you what their favorite Thanksgiving, Christmas food is?

Jeanette:

Another thing I do want to say about this is we've been talking about evaluating the methods and we're going to talk about goals here in just a few minutes. But I do want to say that one thing that you have to do with social media is you will not be able to know exactly what your methods are going to be in the next year, because there will be new methods coming out, coming at you all the time.

Bryan:

Well, and you also have to deal with the changes in privacy. We know that Apple is changing their privacy standards and all of that. So, that's going to impact email, that's going to impact social media, that's going to make a significant change, I think in the analytics that we have. But for now, it's a good way for you to evaluate the methods that you're using and figure out what's working, what's not. And again, if you are creating or you have that central place to send people, then how well are you sending people to that? Are these methods working? Do you need to change it up? Do you need to do something different? That's why you spend time looking at all of this data to figure out what it's telling you.

Jeanette:

And like you mentioned before, the A/B testing, sometimes you don't know what it's telling you until you try something different and then you check it out, and then you come back.

Bryan:

It's really fun sometimes just to change a subject line or change one thing and see just how dramatically something like that can impact whether someone reads an email. So, it's okay to try things. Don't be afraid of that.

Jeanette:

I got two emails from the same person the other day or same brand. I was like, "Oh, look at those two headlines that have the exact same content."

Bryan:

Interesting.

Jeanette:

Which I thought was really cool. It did not annoy me like it might somebody else, but I thought it was interesting.

Bryan:

So, we talked about evaluating the methods. What about the process? I think now is a good time to also look at your process as a communicator, right?

Jeanette:

Yes. And this sometimes is hard for a communicator to totally be depending on where sit at the table, so to speak, may be hard for you to do anything about, but small changes make a big difference. And so, I would recommend you start with your internal communication processes, how are things communicated internally among your leadership, and then from there to your congregation. So, do that first. Evaluate if there's been something that is a constant sticking point, like people are not getting the information they need or meetings are missed, or deadlines are not achieved, where is the disconnect there and what can you do as a communicator to step in the gap there?

Jeanette:

Like I said, sometimes that may and not have anything to do with you, but sometimes it can be a way for you to lead the way towards a better process there. For example, we were having difficulty with multiple ministries, promoting things that kind of overlapped. And so, families were getting a little overwhelmed. And so, they didn't know which thing to pick to do, and they couldn't do them all. And so, attendance rates for those events were going down. And so, we came up with a better process for planning out those events so that ministry A and ministry B weren't planning an event for the same month that only was a week apart, because both of the audiences were very similar. So, you had dads at one and moms at another.

Jeanette:

And what we ended up doing is promoting them together as one thing, and then that helped everybody be able to be on board. So, just little things like that is one example of how evaluating your process and seeing where something is disconnected and stepping in to that gap.

Bryan:

Yeah, that's really good. I didn't even think about starting with internal communication.

Jeanette:

That's where it is.

Bryan:

First of all, that's where it breaks down, right?

Jeanette:

Yeah.

Bryan:

But that's also where it starts. So, that's really good. And I think it's important to take time to evaluate those. Because a lot of times we talk about external communication, but we don't really spend a lot of conversation or effort thinking through and talking through how we communicate as a staff or as a team or whatever that looks like. So, taking time to evaluate what those processes are for your staff, how do things get on the calendar? How do you get the information that you need for communicating? But also, every church's mission is in some way to make disciples. So, everything we do as a church should be pushing people toward becoming more mature disciples of Jesus.

Bryan:

So, how are people making those next steps? What does that process look like? Like you were saying, you may not be able to change the process itself, but you might be able to change the language or you might be able to change the call to action or how people are getting those pieces of information. And if you can go back to the analytics of your methods, you might be able to get some wins by saying, "Hey, we see that people aren't clicking on this, what if we tried something else?" And when you have results, that helps too.

Jeanette:

And one little reminder to everybody, and this is something that has to trickle out among the leadership, for sure, but it's call to action, not calls to actions. Because that may be where the first step isn't being taken, because there's too many choices. And so, as you talked about at the beginning, centralizing and simplifying, that's one of the places that you can look at and be like, this on ramp process or this next step process needs to be so easy. There's no confusion about what that next step needs to be or where you go to take your next step or what you click on to take your next step.

Bryan:

Making it super clear is easy when there's only one button to click, right?

Jeanette:

Yes.

Bryan:

So, if you go sign up for some ebook, even on Church Juice, we send you to a specific landing page that has only one button to press. There's no menu, there is nothing else, because people get distracted so easily that you need one call to action and that's the point here. So, that's good. Let's go onto goals. We talked early on about setting goals, but hopefully you'll have goals. And to be honest, we're still in the middle of the pandemic, so your goals may have flown out the window by January 15th.

Bryan:

But if you have goals or you had goals for this year, take some time and just review them. Maybe you were way off, but taking the time to evaluate how those ended up for the year should give you a better idea of how to set goals next year and then review them quarterly or annually, however you have that set up.

Jeanette:

Yeah. I recently talked to someone. They were talking about that their team has already met early fall to plan out there next year and how they had typically always set yearly goals. But in the last little bit, they have discovered that setting quarterly goals worked much better. Their leadership in the church, there's a series of goals they set for the quarter, but then each team is going to set goals, and within each team, each person is going to set goals, and that breaks it down. So, you might have an overarching goal that seems really huge, but if you're using that SMART goal technique to write a goal where it's actually specific and measurable and...

Bryan:

Attainable.

Jeanette:

Thank you.

Bryan:

I can't ever remember R though.

Jeanette:

And so, you can actually have steps and watch yourself reach these milestones, it makes it a little bit easier. So, when you're setting goals for the next year, no matter what happened with this year, it's all right. Shake it off, it's a new year.

Bryan:

I mean, you talked, I think in the last episode, actually about how you used the focus planner, right?

Jeanette:

Yes.

Bryan:

And in that, if I remember correctly, it gives you each quarter you set goals, but then there are also longer term goals.

Jeanette:

What I really like is you set your yearly goals and then quarterly goals. And then each week you have a weekly big three that you choose, and then each day you have big three, you have tasks that are the three big tasks that you have to accomplish, and then all that other stuff. Because yes, you've got to check your email every day, but that doesn't need to be a big three. There's probably three tasks that you have to accomplish every day, three bigger things that you have to accomplish every week. And so, that really helps me stay on track with projects and things like that.

Bryan:

Yeah. And I think it's good to spend time thinking through short and long term. So, that's a good thing. I think we talked through evaluating and thinking through communications a little bit.

Jeanette:

Now, this is a short episode, but that's a lot of stuff.

Bryan:

Yeah, great.

Jeanette:

So, take it one step at a time. We just wanted to give you all an idea of just some things that you can do as you're planning for the new year, to take a moment. Some of us do this, like you mentioned in the intro, personally, where you take a step back. This is just some ideas of how to do that in your ministry as well.

Bryan:

Yeah. And I think we can talk about this some more, especially setting goals, in the Facebook group. So, if you haven't, make sure you join the Church Juice's insider's Facebook group. You can get the link to that as well as the show notes for today on our website, just go to churchjuice.com/podcast.

Jeanette:

Church Juice's podcast is a listener supported production of ReFrame Ministries, a family of programs designed to help you see your whole life reframed by God's gospel story. Church Juice is produced by Bryan Haley with post-production by audio engineer, Nate Morris, and Grand Rapids, Michigan. For more information about Church Juice, visit churchjuice.com. For more information on ReFrame Ministries and our family of programs, visit reframeministries.org.