Every church has a communications plan.
But most churches don't have a good communications plan.
I've been at my church long enough to remember when having a website was cutting edge and 'electronic mail' was exotic.
Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore.
Telling your story and keeping everyone in your church informed about the things that matter most is not easy.
We live in a noisy world.
People are distracted.
Where people go to consume news and share stories changes all the time.
So you've got your work cut out for you.
The good news is that a little bit of effort goes a long way.
I'll show you.
Here are four very basic concepts.
When you put them together, in this sequence, your church will know what's going on, why it matters, and how they can help.
Take a look and see what you think.
1. Find someone to work your plan
Before you even develop a plan, take the time to find someone who will be responsible for executing the plan.
Maybe you just need one person who can handle everything.
Or you're looking for someone who can lead a team of people who handle your business for you.
However you put that Rubik's Cube together, just remember this.
You are not looking for a visionary who wants to revolutionize the church communications space.
You don't need someone who wants to spend all their time blueprinting the perfect system.
You need someone who works hard and can get things done.
You need someone who loves to share stories.
You need someone who gets bothered when people aren't kept in the loop.
If you can't find someone with all three of these traits, please don't settle for someone who likes to think and dream and come up with ideas.
The name of the game is execution.
Whoever handles communications has to get things done.
Or the entire initiative will end up like that half-finished Pinewood Derby car that your mom ended up using as a paperweight.
2. Live within your limits
Once you have someone in place, there is one driving principle that needs to be agreed upon before you start building your plan:
All we have today is all we need today.
One of the reason churches sputter along with communication is because they overextend themselves.
They try too many things.
They spend money without considering the return on investment.
Your communications effort needs a budget.
Your communications effort needs an actionable plan.
And your communications effort needs to know where your people are (more on that in a minute)
3. Have a home base
Your communication effort has to have a solid foundation.
You need a base that serves as the church's 'paper of record.'
You need somewhere to broadcast every critical piece of information.
Announcements, notices, updates, etc.
For years, the 'paper of record' for most churches was a weekly bulletin handed out during Sunday gatherings. Or some mid-week publication that was sent via email once a week or month.
More recently, churches have used blogs on their website to broadcast critical information.
I recommend that churches create a weekly email newsletter as their paper of record.
Use a service like MailChimp.
Create a template and a monthly schedule of stories, updates, announcements.
Develop clear, consistent and creative ways to invite people to sign-up for your newsletter.
Create content that people want and need if they're going to be 'in the know' as part of your church.
4. Establish 1-2 outposts that meet people where they are
All throughout the week, your church is scattered.
Everyone is off doing their own thing.
Keeping everyone on the same page is not easy. At all.
Your home base is an invitation to come back and be reminded of what matters most.
And even if you use an email service that takes your home base to the people, you still have other opportunities to get your message out there.
Use your weekly gatherings as a communications outpost.
Share announcements - from the stage or on screen.
Have people share their stories.
Use social media as a communications outpost.
More and more churches are using platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat to broadcast to their church.
I really think you're nuts if you don't have an active voice on at least one of these platforms.
But the options and upkeep of social media channels can be overwhelming so here's a plan to keep you sane and ahead of the curve when you use social as a communications outpost.
- Start with Facebook. More people in your church are on that platform than anywhere else.
- Understand the psychology of Facebook. People are not going on Facebook to have a conversation. They don't treat it like an informational website. People get on Facebook to see what other people are up to. And look at pictures. And take Buzzfeed quizzes. You'll need to shape your engagement on Facebook to give people what they want.
- Understand the algorithm of Facebook. Facebook does not broadcast information chronologically onto people's feeds. And because their algorithm changes on a regular basis, have someone take 4-8 hours and learn how Facebook works. Not just the mechanics of posting but the best practices that will get your updates in front of as many people as possible.
Bonus - Here's The Secret Sauce
If and when you're ready to go to the next level with your communication plan, try this out.
Expand your social media presence
Open up the conversation with segments of your church by using the social media platforms that they're using.
If you want to reach women, encourage your women's ministry to use Pinterest.
Your ministry to students should focus on Instagram and Snapchat.
Learn those platforms and add value by posting quality, native content.
Shoot more video
The attention graph for users on most social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) is on video.
There still aren't a lot of people posting video content, and technology is making it easier than ever to shoot and upload great looking content for the cost of an iPad and a cheap lighting rig.
And if your church uses Twitter, you should definitely find ways to use Periscope to broadcast anything from live Q&As to portions of your gathering.
Use email autoresponders
Everyone hates email.
But everyone uses email.
One of the most effective ways to communicate with guests and active attenders is through an email auto-responder sequence.
You can set up a series of five 'welcome' emails to guests once they give you their contact information.
And you only have to write those emails once.
You can create a daily Bible reading plan during Advent that gets sent every morning to regulars in your church.
And you can write the entire sequence in October.
Not gonna lie.
You've gotta put some work into building your auto-responder on the front end.
And it may take some time to find your voice.
But using automation will turn your church into a communications juggernaut.
Do The Next Right Thing
Run those four plays that I told you about up top.
Find someone who will run your communications plan.
Develop a plan that is simple and sustainable.
Build a home base.
Establish an outpost or two.
Just do that and watch what happens over the next year.