Remember those infomercials for the Showtime Rotisserie cooker? “Just set it and forget it!” I think too many churches approach communications that way. “Let’s set up a Facebook account! Let’s set up a Twitter account! A LinkedIn account! A Google+ account!” And so on…
Each new social media and communications option brings new excitement and opportunity. But we basically set it up and forget it. Then we think we’ve done communication by developing all the appropriate communication channels.
But there are a few problems with a “set it and forget it” approach to communications:
- It establishes one-way communication. If someone tries to respond to your one-way communication, they probably won’t get a response.
- It’s easy to lose track of your established channels. This leads to incomplete or outdated information. We don’t remember all the channels we need to keep updated.
We must vigilantly guard our communication channels. We must keep our information accurate. We must respond in a timely manner. We must curate our communication.
We’ve already talked about curating a bunch in this issue of Sunday| magazine. Curating is a vital part of every aspect of the Sunday morning creative process. But church communicators don’t just communicate on Sunday morning – within the four walls of the church. They communicate throughout the week and through many different venues.
Curating communication is not a weekly task. It’s a daily task. It’s an hourly task.
It takes strategy.
Do you have a communications strategy at your church? Do you have a system for curating your communications? If not, this is a good place to start:
Curate Your Channels
Then start pruning. The smaller and simpler you can keep this list, the more success you’ll have at communicating. Do people in your church actually communicate via Twitter? Are the people you’re trying to reach actually using Google+? Just because a communication channel is exciting and popular, doesn’t mean that it’s the appropriate channel for you to communicate with.
Identify where the people you want to reach are communicating. And don’t just assume. Figure out where they live on the Internet and what types of things they read/listen to. This will require a novel action on your part: face to face communication. You will need to get to know the different people you’re trying to communicate with and figure this stuff out. It’s scary, I know.
Curate Your Strategy
Whenever you communicate, consult your list of communication channels. Identify which channels are appropriate for the information you want to communicate.
Some channels are one-way. Those work well for one-way information. If you’re making an announcement that doesn’t require a response, use the one-way channels. (This doesn’t mean you don’t use the two-way channels. But you might want to alter the information for the two-way channels to foster communication, response, or sharing.)
Some channels are instant. Those work well for short term or last-minute information. Your church website is probably not the venue for last-minute information. Facebook, Twitter, email, and phone (text or voice) are much better for that type of information.
Curate Your Effectiveness
As you’re making the shift from non-targeted communication to targeted communication, you’ll realize how effective (or ineffective) you are at communicating. Throughout this process you might realize you need to encourage people again to “Like” your Facebook page or follow you on Twitter so they are placed in the loop.
This might seem scary if you haven’t been successful with this in the past.
But it’s much easier to get folks to engage when there are limited communication channels. People don’t want to connect with you 20 different ways. They don’t want to receive 20 identical messages in their social and physical mailboxes.
Communication isn’t a one-time, set it and forget it thing. Effective communication is complicated and ever evolving. I encourage you to constantly review your communication pieces. Stroll the halls of your church and your Internet properties. Keep track of every piece of communication you’ve created. Then prune and landscape that communication. Keep it simple and effective. Remove old pieces and refine ineffective pieces.
You’re in the church. You’re in the business of communication. Curate your communication.