The Importance of a Unified Communications Strategy for Your Church Or Ministry

by | Feb 9, 2018 | Blog

Communication is a topic near and dear to God’s heart.  Since the beginning, He has used a variety of techniques to get His message across, starting with Oral tradition, and then into the written word.  It seems no wonder that the first book ever printed on a printing press was the Bible.  God has told His story through the ages in the language and media of the day so that His word would never fail to connect to the hearts of those who seek Him.

Large businesses have put great care into crafting a message for their brand.  Every aspect of communications is designed to further that message.  They are intentional about the tone of their written communication, the look of their images, their colors, fonts, graphics, the channels where, and the frequency at which they communicate.  In the case of business, their communication is set up intentionality further their business objectives.

A church or ministry may have very different objectives than a business, but can still be intentional about using communications to further its objectives; namely engaging people to love God and to love each other.  The Bible tells us that we would defeat the enemy by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.  We have a part to play in this struggle, and it is to tell the stories of what God has done in us and through us.  We should not look at having a communication strategy for our church as disingenuous, but rather as good stewardship of the message that we have received, and are meant to pass on.

Establishing A Strategy

There are many elements to a successful strategy, and it can be a little overwhelming to start.  The task of establishing a communication strategy is one that will likely involve a team of people.  You want to get your stakeholders together and have a discussion about what exactly is needed for your church/ministry’s communication.  Some possible objectives might be (but this list is far from exhaustive).

  • Increase attendance at weekend services
  • encourage connection with a small group
  • keep congregation abreast of events going on through the week
  • Attract seekers to your church
  • Raise funds for a capital campaign
  • General encouragement of the Body
  • Increased awareness of international missions
  • facilitating prayer requests

Once we decide what our objectives should be, we are well on our way to establishing a strategy.  I would caution you to enter into this prayerfully.  Trying to do too much with our communication too fast may result in none of it being done well.  Figure out what your core objectives are, and start from there.  As you develop your strategy and become more consistent, you may find that you can branch out a little. Another word of caution would be to take care when one of your primary objectives is fundraising, not to simply issue appeal after appeal for finances.  People can, and should be giving, but if they are inundated with requests for more money, they will simply tune out.  Someone once told me that people don’t give to needs, but to people who meet needs.  Testimony is very important in fundraising.  People want to hear stories of how lives were impacted, and how they can be a part of furthering that impact, rather than hearing stories of how you’re underfunded and need them to give more.

 

Establish Visual Consistency

This is an important part of the process, and perhaps one where you might need to bring in some outside help, depending on whether you have someone with both the skills and time to help you develop your church/ministry’s visual elements.  You may not need to have a design studio come up with a full brand book, but some elements that you will need to establish are:

 

Logo

Your church needs a logo.  I could speak at great length about what makes a good or bad logo.  Your logo is going to be everywhere, so take your time creating something that looks good, and really expresses who you are.  If you’re using a volunteer to design the logo, make sure that they know that if you don’t accept their first pass at it, or want to go in a different direction, that it’s not a negative reflection on them as an individual.  Sometimes it takes a while to really feel inspired and to get a really great logo that we feel great about using for years to come.  There are outsourced services that will do logo designs for very cheap (like Fiver).  I wouldn’t plan on a $5 budget for the design.  You might need to have them do it a few times, and then take the ideas and play with them a bit.  Whatever you do to create your logo, make sure that the final design is done in a vector graphics program (usually Adobe Illustrator) and that you get the vector files.  This will be crucial when trying to print things like signs and banners.

If your church belongs to a denomination, there may be a brand guide which you could use as a starting point.  The denomination may have established guidelines for their communication, which would give you some design cues to incorporate, and they may even have a local branding guide which will give you some help narrowing down your design decisions a little, while still affording you the freedom of individualization.  Having done a lot of work with Wesleyan churches, I know that the denomination has done a great job of creating these resources and making them available.  If you want to see an example of what I am writing about, visit the brand kit page on their website.

 

Colour Pallet

It is said that certain colors inspire certain feelings in people.  You may not want to get into the Psychology of color, but you will want to establish a consistent color pallet.  You will need 2 or 3 principal colors, along with some tints/shades, and an accent color or two.  This again may be something that you need some help establishing, or at least try and do some research on color harmony rules.  Once you establish your color pallet, you will want to make sure that you have the EXACT color values in RGB, and hex for digital, along with CMYK for print.  You may also want to figure out the colors using the Pantone Matching system for things like signs and business cards.

 

Font Choices

You will want to establish fonts for your brand Identity.  You will likely need at least 2 of them.  You may want one that can be what is called a “display font”, which means it would be used for large type, like headlines.  You will also want a “text font” which is used for things like body text on web pages or brochures.  There are a few things to consider when choosing fonts.

  1. Do they go well together?  The fonts don’t have to be polar opposites, or very close in style, but they should look good together.  You might want to do a little research on font pairings, to help you find a good set.
  2. Licensing:  While there are usually hundreds of fonts installed on your computer, they may not be on everyone’s computer.  You will want to make sure that your communications team has a licensed copy of whichever font families and weights you’re using.  If you go for a specific look, you may need to purchase fonts from a site like www.myfonts.com.  Be warned fonts cost money.  Some can be quite inexpensive, and yet others can cost a pretty penny, especially if the font is available in a wide variety of different weights (hairline, extra light, light, regular, medium, book, semibold, bold, extra bold, black, etc).  Pick only the weights you want to keep the costs down.
  3. Web fonts:  Web pages rely on fonts already installed on the viewer’s computer.  That means that if you want to use a font that isn’t exactly ubiquitous, you may need to use web fonts.  There are several different ways to put web fonts into a website, such as using Google fonts, Adobe Typeset, or using the font-face rule, but just be aware that this will be a consideration when creating a website, or even email marketing materials.  You might want to specify an open source web-font in your brand guide.  Google fonts is free, and has a wide variety of fonts.  This can be a very helpful resource.

 

Image Styling

While you want to use a wide variety if images as visuals in your communication, you may want to have an overarching style.  Filters are a good example of this.  If you post images to popular social media sites, you can often employ a filter on the image which will give is a particular stylized look.  The image might be desaturated, or it may be made to look like it came out of an 1980’s polaroid camera.  Employing something like this isn’t necessary, but can be helpful in trying to make all your images seem like they go together.

 

Choosing The Correct Channels

Now that we have established a strategy and a visual style for our communications, we should decide which channels of communication would best serve our objective. While there are many different options here, I would say that there are 3 primary channels we will want to be in for our digital communications

 

Website

It’s hard to find a church in North America that doesn’t have a website.  That’s not to say that all of those websites are good, or even marginal.  Websites can be costly to build, and a headache to maintain, but they really are necessary.  If your church doesn’t have a website, then in most people’s eyes, it will take a big hit in credibility.

As a web designer who specializes in church websites, I would make some recommendations to anyone looking to upgrade or revamp their church website.

  1. Get a custom domain name:  A domain is pretty cheap, and it is worth the $15/yr that you will pay to register the domain for the added credibility.  If you built the same website in two locations, and one was located at www.cheapsites.com/yourchurchnameand the other was located at www.yourchurchname.com, which one would have more creditably in your eyes?
  2. Build your site on a Content Management System (CMS).  CMS websites offer you a balance of power and ease of use.  Currently the most popular, and in my opinion best CMS is WordPress.  It powers about 25% of all sites on the world wide web today, which is about 10x the number of it’s next closest competitor Joomla.  There are services that will sell you proprietary CMS sites or purpose build CMS sites, but I would always recommend WordPress since there are a huge number of plugins available, many for free, which can add the functionality that the propriety options will try and sell you.  Plus if down the road you want to add a feature, there is likely a plugin to do it already, and you won’t have to pay a developer to custom code it.
  3. Bring in Professional help if you need to.  There are web designers out there who can produce a quality site at a reasonable price.  You may have volunteers in your church who are capable of adding content and updating pages, but setting up the site might be somewhere you consider investing some money.

We should also understand the purpose of our church/ministry website.  The primary function of your site is going to be to provide basic information to those who are considering attending your church, and to those who are newly attending it.  That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t put content on your pages aimed at those who’ve been around a while, but you should understand that for many church attendees, once they settle into a church, they’re not likely to frequent the website on a regular basis.  Dynamic content such as blogs, and event calendars can keep people coming back, but the site’s static content will not, and that’s okay.

For a powerful and affordable website solution, you can check out our subscription-based service, which will give you all the tools you need to build a great church website.

 

Email Lists

Your church should have an email list.  If you don’t, you should start creating one immediately.  Even if you don’t do anything with it for six months, at least you can be building your list for when you are ready.  There are a number of email marketing services that would suit any small or medium-sized church with room to spare; the most popular of which would be www.mailchimp.com.  Mail chimp’s free account will be more than enough for a small or medium-sized church.  AWeber and Constant Contact are other options, each costing about $20/mo.  In any case, create an account, and create a list (or multiple), and start adding people to it.

You need to add addresses to your list in the right way to avoid legal entanglements with anti-spamming laws.  You can provide an email opt-in form on your website, and use mobile apps provided by the various email services, or even paper sign up forms, but don’t just assume and add.

Once you’ve established your list, you’ll have a powerful communications tool for those in your church community.  While they may not visit your website often, they do check email on a regular basis.  If your communication is well crafted, you can see some good results here.  If it’s not well done, you’ll end up buried in a junk mail folder faster than you can say, “spam, spam, spam, spam, bacon, eggs, ham, and spam”.

 

Social Media

By far the most dynamic channel in your communication arsenal, social media presents many opportunities and challenges that other channels do not.  Firstly you’ll need to determine which networks are best suited to your message and to your audience.

  • Facebook:  At present, Facebook seems like a no-brainer for most.  With 1.71 billion active mostly users at the time of the writing, there’s a good chance that the people in your church are using it.
  • Twitter:  Twitter can be great if you have a lot of tech savvy millennial in your congregation.  It’s not something that you’ll want to use if you are posting weekly, but if you are a prolific poster who can get your message across in 140 characters or less, then tweet on!
  • Google+: I have had Google+ since it’s inception, and rarely use it.  If you happen to be in a church where strangely it is widely used, then use it.  Otherwise…pass.
  • Instagram:  Instagram can be really great for visual story telling.  It’s very popular among the younger crowd, and you should consider using it if you can take a decent photo, and have some idea of how to communicate your message visually.  If you’re just going to take pictures of your food, you may want to keep that to a personal account.

There are many other networks that you can use, if people at your church are on them.  The purpose of using social media is to engage in a conversation with people at your church, and those who are connected to people at your church.  You’re not always going to control the narrative, but it gives you a tremendous opportunity to have a real conversation, which you can’t do with websites or mass-emails.

 

Establish A Team

Handling the communication for an organization is big job.  If you are the senior leader of a church or a ministry, it is unlikely that you will have the time to do this task effectively without the help of a team.  You will likely rely on volunteers for this, but you need to make sure that you have people with a variety of different skills.  Look for people who are good at writing/story telling, taking photographs, creating social media posts, and engaging in social media conversation.  You’ll also want at least one person who is a good proofreader, and one person to manage the editorial calendar.  This process is actually a great opportunity for discipleship, as we can get a number of people serving in an area of ministry who might not otherwise feel that they can find something up their alley.  As the members of the team gain experience, it may give them additional confidence in different areas of ministry.  Someone might start out doing Facebook posts, and then start writing blog posts.  They may become comfortable enough to start teaching an adult Sunday School class, leading a small group, or perhaps even guest preaching occasionally.  Give your people room to grow in an environment where they can make mistakes, give them a little guidance, and watch them grow.

 

Editorial Calendar

Establishing and sticking to an editorial calendar is really where the rubber meets the road when it comes to communication strategy.  Together with your team, you will need to determine what communications you need, the topics that you should communicate, at what frequency you need to communicate, and who is the person directly responsible for that piece of communication.  At this phase you should be looking at your objectives that you established at the beginning of the process.  You will want to create content which can speak to those objectives and encourage others to engage in them, much the same way that a Pastoral team my do a sermon series to highlight a particular topic that they feel that the Lord is speaking to the church body.  There are lots of ways to do an editorial calendar, but just for example purposes, I have created one below.  This can outlines the various channels, topics, and those responsible for the content, along with the dates that they should be published.

The calendar is a tool, and should be used as such.  The intent is never to let it be the boss, but to use it to keep us on track and focused towards our objectives.  It will help us keep our communication balanced, and timely.  Because this can be arranged in advance, you team can get together and brain storm on topics. Often the hardest part of generating content is coming up with ideas of what to write about.  The calendar will help us tell an ongoing narrative through various channels of communication to engage the maximum number of people in the most effective ways.  Also, keep in mind that content can be cross-platform; what I mean by that is that content built for one channel can be repurposed for use on another.  For example, a blog post can also serve as a Facebook post.  This sort of cross-pollination will maximize the reach of our various pieces of content.  That’s not to say that we put everything we create up on every channel, but we also don’t reinvent the wheel with every post.

 

In Conclusion

You church or ministry, whether big or small can benefit from putting a little structure to your communications.  A well through out strategy can make our efforts much more efficient, and rewarding.  The exercise of evaluating our objectives has value to itself, as it causes us to prioritize what we feel that the Lord has commissioned up to do.  Using your communications to further these objectives will help you get your church or ministry community moving in the same direction.  There may be some investment on the front end, especially with the creating of a website, and the visual elements of your communications, but once it is up and running, it can be a great tool.