Archives For communications strategy

communication photo

Church Communications is a difficult and often thankless job. When you are doing it well, people don’t seem to notice. When you aren’t doing it well, people aren’t afraid to let you know. Lately, I’ve been struggling with people telling us that we “don’t communicate well” at First Trinity. I’m not entirely certain that I know what that even means except that we aren’t doing it well.

Here’s what I think it could mean:

  • People aren’t hearing what they want to hear. Lots of talk about about why we use Garamond over Times New Roman in our print publications when no one cares about the typeface is not communicating. It’s just noise. (FWIW, it’s because Garamond looks much more fluid than Times New Roman, which is just plain ugly.)
  • People want to hear process, not (just) results. It’s great that we’re trying something new, but why are we doing it? How did we arrive at that decision? Who even made the decision?
  • People like Paul Harvey and want to hear “the rest of the story.” You told us about this all-church study, but then it just disappeared into oblivion. Did anyone do anything as a result of this class? How did it go? Did anyone even come?
  • People want you to communicate with them, not at them. More simply, people want to be involved in the conversation.
  • People want to hear from a variety of voices. It’s easier to ignore one person than multiple voices. Different voices/styles reach different people. Adding more people to the conversation helps communication. It’s harder to coordinate, but it’s more effective.

I’m trying to figure out what exactly we’re doing wrong with communications, but there’s no sense waiting for the answer before getting started. If you wait for the “right” answer, you’ll end up spinning your wheels and never addressing the problem. I actually created a content plan a few months ago, but I got caught up in “perfecting” the plan and the systems to make it happen that nothing actually happened. Ooops.

So we’re diving in. Here are some of the things we’re either already doing or will be coming up soon on the new First Trinity Blog:

  • Process, not just results: Why We’re Trying No Sharing of the Peace
  • The rest of the story: 40 Days of Love Recap, Kingdom Quest Service Project Update, God is Moving at the University of Buffalo
  • Multiple voices: In addition to myself, Sue Steege, Bekah Freed, and Annie Reed are writing content for the blog. Annie is doing a series of four Advent devotions, the first of which is coming on Monday. I’m also working at finding a mix of regular writers for recurring types of posts (like the devotions) and also including some guest writers.

I’m not sure we have the right answer yet, but I feel good about being on the path to get there. If you have ideas for content that people might be interested in from a church blog, I’d love to hear them.

I am continually amused when people come to me for help with Facebook. I’ve been asked to talk about social media to others because I’m perceived to be good with this stuff. The truth is, I’m good with computers and technology, and I can usually figure out something if I have to, but Facebook (and social media in general) has never been an interest or passion of mine. Truth be told, if I didn’t work for a church, I probably wouldn’t spend any time on them. By all accounts, I appear to be an extrovert, but my heart’s desire is to be an introvert, or at least an internet hermit.

So it’s funny that part of my job at First Trinity is to manage online communications strategy. Thankfully, I have some much more competent staff members here like Bekah Freed and Sue Steege. They’re gracious in helping to manage our Facebook Page, but I still have to be involved. So, in the interest of helping others, here are some of the steps we took, and the things I learned, for getting your church on Facebook.

Have a Strategy

One of my biggest challenges with social media is being strategic and adding value. I don’t want to just share fluff about my life or what I’m eating at any given time. It was hard for me to think about creating a strategy, so Bekah, Sue, Pastor Chuck and I participated in a webinar on the topic. I can’t recommend it enough as a starting point for you. Waterbrook Multnomah put it on. Click here to participate. With the change to Timeline view on pages, some of the information is outdated, but it’s still worth your time.

We’re still formulating a formal strategy, but we’re working under the guiding principle that we want to use the page to foster conversation and connections, while sharing news and happenings in a more story-based format and less informational. We also want to contribute to people’s spiritual growth through things like our daily Bible thoughts.

Convey Your Story

A while back we hired a communications consultant who helped us discover God’s story in this place, who He shaped this congregation of believers to be. It was a great process and we ended up with some solid content to help convey who we are. These three statements have become core to how we communicate and do ministry. Your Facebook page should be a reflection of who God has created your church to be in the world.

For our cover photo on the new timeline, we chose to use a collage of pictures that tries to convey our story. The “Celebrating Life Together” is the summary form of one of our three story statements linked above. I used Photoshop to put it together, but Google’s Picasa can do a collage fairly quickly as well. I got the idea from this article on Church Mag.

Your cover photo is the first thing people see when they land on your page. It should be bright and attractive, setting the mood for your page. Your content, however, is what will reinforce and develop your story. What you post and share, and the conversations you have, will refine and shape that first impression.

Develop a Routine

Sue likes to joke that I’m “Mr. Try It For A While.” I like to test out the new technologies and websites that appear, but I rarely stick to them. In the case of Facebook, one of my challenges was always remembering to go there and continue using it. I’d get on for a while, then forget about it and not update. The thing about social media for churches, especially Facebook, is that once you start, it’s really hard to stop. People will start to expect updates. So don’t be afraid to develop a routine for your social media use.

We use HootSuite to batch-post updates to Facebook. It can also do Twitter and their working on Google+ Page support as well. You can write several posts in advance and schedule them to go out at later times. You can also create a file to upload in bulk. I currently have scheduled updates for our Daily Bible Thoughts at 7 a.m. (hoping to catch people for morning devotions) and a 1 p.m. Thursday update with the Scripture readings for the upcoming weekend’s worship.

The scheduled updates are supplemented with “as we can” posts that are done when we think of them. This insures there will always be some content coming, but we’re also not beholden to the schedule and can post updates immediately if needed. These updates tend to be re-posts of staff blogs when they happen, pictures from an event, special videos and events, etc.