The ABCs of effective communication
Every congregation needs clarity about why it exists, who they seek to reach, how they will serve their intended audience and what value, in the form of transformed lives and communities, they seek to provide. But clarity isn’t enough. The purpose and priorities of an organization have to be communicated in ways that people understand, willingly embrace and lead to thinking and behaving differently. I’d like to suggest that you evaluate your current communication efforts by using the ABCs marketing exercise I learned in college which focuses on four key questions.
Does our congregation have . . .
- A TAGLINE and related stories that frame how people perceive and interact with us? Taglines and stories help people understand WHAT you do and WHY you do it. Stories remind people that God is still speaking and that God is “up to something” within and among people in your faith community. Pastors and lay leaders need to be intentional collectors and disseminators of stories related to God’s work in and through people. Consider asking people, “What is God doing in your life, and in our church?” Post these comments on your website, in Facebook posts and share them during worship. A couple of examples of tag lines from churches I work with include, “Engaging God in daily life.” Another uses, “Called to care, sent to serve.” Both statements have a way of focusing people’s attention on what matters most within their congregation. If you want to change your culture, change what people talk about.
- BRANDING STANDARDS that help people experience our mission, vision and core values? I love Will Mancini’s definition of branding: “Branding is the gut reaction a person instantly feels when hearing the name of your church.” What do you want people’s gut reaction to be about your organization? Would this reaction be the same regardless of whether they received a postcard invitation to an event, visited the website or participated in worship? Brand standards include the consistent use of logos, fonts, styles, colors, images, graphics and key messages. With agreed-upon standards in place, a congregation will be able to clearly communicate who they are and what they’re about.
- COORDINATED STRATEGIES for creating synergy among all communication tools and delivery channels? This includes websites, social media, worship bulletins, annual reports, monthly newsletters, weekly newsletters, outgoing voice messages, program brochures, powerpoint presentations and more. Coordinated strategies address what’s included, and what get’s left out. If your newsletter is designed to equip people to live their faith everyday, everywhere, I’d suggest leaving out the “recipe of the month.” When you emphasize everything, you emphasize nothing. Strip your communications to the bare essentials and remove the clutter so that people can remember and recite the most important things. Considering that most congregations can manage only 3-5 channels well, your congregation may need to discern which channels have the greatest impact on its members and the people they’re seeking to reach, and then prioritize its resources toward maximizing the impact of these particular channels.
- SYSTEMS that ensure consistently high-quality, experiences week after week? How people experience your congregation IS PART OF YOUR BRAND. Systems are needed for inviting people into their faith community, helping them connect with people in meaningful ways, growing disciples, helping people discover, develop and deploy their gifts, along with teaching them how to develop and mentor others. Systems are your “friends” that allow you to do ministry better, more efficiently while reinforcing your overall brand. Without standards, your brand will become diluted and your ministries will appear siloed.
Paying attention to the ABCs of communication has proven to be useful for many congregations I coach. I hope it might serve as a helpful exercise for your congregation. What plans and practices do you have in place to regularly evaluate your communication efforts?