Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Looking for a way to tell "a Better Story"

The theme this year for the North American Christian Convention is "a Better Story". It seems well suited in many respects. We need to remind ourselves that the Christian faith offers a better story and a better way of life than the way of the world. I think that all Christians know this intuitively.

However, as a person that has a background and passion for communication the "Better Story" theme can ring a bit hollow. See we know we have a great story for the world, but how do we communicate it? Every Sunday Christian Churches across North America communicate that story and some, if we are completely honest, do a better job than others.

So what will the time at the convention be dedicated to? Will it be all about the stories we know we have or will it be about how to convey those stories to a world that needs to hear the gospel more than ever. Of course it is our hope at Speiro that they spend time with both. Not necessarily the nuts and bolts of communication but the fact that assistance, especially in small and medium sized churches is available. The bigger congregations have the resources and sometimes dedicated employees for communication, but many medium and smaller churches struggle. 

Every year at NACC we see things that we think we should be doing. The week is packed with great ideas that would improve how we communicate, but that enthusiasm wanes as the reality of the work at hand becomes evident. 

If you get excited by the possibilities but discouraged as you see the possibilities beyond your expertise or time available contact us at Speiro. We are here to help you sow! 

Speiro Helps VBS Introduces Children to God

The raccoon character was created as well as the rest of the logo. 
VBS is one of the best outreaches churches have to their community. However, the cost of the pre-packaged VBS material continues to increase and that can price some churches out of the market. They have the will, they have the volunteers, but they just don't have the budget.

To help alleviate the cost some churches have decided to produce their own theme and their own material. The only thing missing was a fun logo and character. To help out Speiro took the camping theme and developed a logo, Ricky Raccoon and black and white sheets that could be used for a coloring pages or transparencies for making large decorations. 

This benefited the church in their outreach efforts and Speiro was glad to help the church sow into the community. If you would like more info on how we can help contact Speiro Communications.  

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

First Christian Church of Carmi Working with Speiro

Congratulations to First Christian Church of Carmi, Illinois! they have been working with Speiro Communications and have decided on a new logo.

The logo is a strong symbol that clearly communicates their new theme "Advancing God's Kingdom" and uses colors effectively. It is clear and contemporary.

The logo is just a step as they are in the process. Working with Speiro, they had an evaluation and communication plan created followed by the new logo and now a new website is under construction. Once the website is finished an e-newsletter template will be completed to help inform the congregation of activities. Minister Greg Grant and the team have been wonderful to work with and Speiro is looking forward to assisting them speak to their community and advance God's Kingdom!

Congratulations First Christian in Carmi!  

Budgeting for External Communication

Once a ministry team or minister understands the need for improved communication strategies, the next question is, "Ok. How much is this going to cost?" The budget for every church has pressure from all sorts of directions. Salaries, office supplies, youth activities, the electric bill and dozens of other line items are in competition for dollars in the budget. Tithes and offerings only go so far and how many fundraisers, can a church do?

But, before we start throwing around dollars and cents you have to determine if your church really wants to tell others about your local ministry. Believe it or not there are a lot of satisfied churches out there. In the minds of some members, leadership and even ministry professionals there is a magic number that maintains a close to perfect harmony with little or no stress. Anything beyond that balance disrupts the church we want (not necessarily the church God wants). As an example, I sent out a press release for a church and then chastised when several homeless people showed up for food. Apparently the manners of the homeless people were below what was expected. In other words, the church in question didn't really want new people at their church unless they met a specific minimum requirement of behavior. They really didn't want more people to minister to or reach, they wanted more people like them. If your church doesn't want more people, then spending anytime or resources is a waste. Because no matter how closely you try to communicate to your target demographic, others outside of that target may show up.    

Also consider the terminology. When looking at the resources you have, it should not be viewed as a cost because all of your assets can't be listed on a balance sheet or weighed like a piece of meat. Church is no business and cannot function like one. Limited thinking dwells on money and in God's Kingdom, although a consideration, money should not be the end of the discussion. We have access to more than just money. Volunteers, time and a God that has cattle on a thousand hills are just the beginning of what we can bring to the table. Instead of cost we should consider our efforts an investment and consider all we have not just the bank balance.

With the above in mind list your resources. How much time can staff members devote to telling others about Jesus, the Kingdom of God and the local church beyond current efforts? Make no mistake, increasing communication is going to cost you and tax resources. Consider how many volunteers and how much time they would like to commit. Beyond that think about their expertise and abilities. I have know lots of grandmothers that can, and do assist with promoting the church on Facebook, but I wouldn't want them to create a web page.

To recap you must first determine the following:
1. Do we want to reach people with our church's message?
2. How much time can staff devote to increasing communication?
3. How many volunteers are willing?
4. How much time can each volunteer give?
5. What is the skill set of each volunteer?

Now it is time to consider how much of a monetary investment your church needs to make. I will discuss the major parts of a reasonable marketing plan and the cost associated with each.

Communication Plan - Everything should start with a communication plan. In basic terms you need to think about the market, message, method and measurements in your plan. The plan will guide you in knowing who you are talking to, what you should say, the mediums you will use and how you can track success. In the private sector plans of this sort can mean an investment of $15,000 - $20,000 and usually an equal charge for a follow up assessment.  These plans can be quite extensive and but can be accomplished with the right volunteers over several months. The downside is that hundreds of hours of staff and volunteer time will be needed. A better option is to pay a consultant hourly to lead a ministry to team develop your own plan. Meeting monthly with a team hour to guide them will be between $100 and $200 per visit plus travel if needed. The process can take 6 months to a year.

Website - There was a time when this was better left to the professionals. Websites were difficult to build, edit and maintain. Now your church may have a volunteer put together a good website. Keep in mind that this is your new church sign. For many people the only exposure they will have to your church comes from what they see online. Even if a member wants to create the site don't hesitate in asking them if they have done it before and what the sites are they have produced. Look them over before you ask them to do the work. Also just building the site is the tip of the iceberg. You will need photos, logos and content to make a website.

If you opt to have a website professionally done keep in mind that there are several levels of work that professionals may undertake. At Speiro we have constructed the structure and had the church do all of the content with support. We have also done entire websites and everything in between. the investment generally breaks down like this:

  1. Do it yourself with professional advice and an off the shelf program (Wix, Weebly, SnapPages, etc.) - Time is the biggest factor. If you know what you are doing it takes about 10 hours per page and that is if you have the logos in the proper formats, the content and the photos. Also even if you do it completely by yourself you still have to pay for hosting and the use of the template. It is around a $100 a year give or take. Hourly consultation may be needed with a that fee will be between $100 and $200 per hour plus travel. 
  2. Have a working template and map created then fill in the template yourself - Time is considerable less for staff and volunteers, however you will be surprised at how long it takes to gather up all of the stuff that makes a website a website. Maybe 5 - 10 or more hours per page. The good news is the structure will be complete and you can have a more professional page without any of the coding. Also a professional will take the time to make sure the theme, colors and way that a person travels through the site matches your needs. There is a wide range of costs depending on specific requirements however the initial invest should be between $1000 to $2000. A monthly fee for tech support fee of $50 to $100 will probably be necessary for at least a year. Also annual costs for hosting will be around $100.
  3. Having a pro do everything - Sorry there is no magic bullet that prevents any work, even if the whole website is built for you. You still have to provide content, photos and logos. This way of website design can come with a hefty price tag of between $2500 to $5000+. Monthly support is not the issue however maintenance is. The cost of maintenance can range between $100 to $300 per month. 

Social Media - Is free! That's right they say nothing is free in life but they were wrong. When it comes to cash there is no charge for Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram. However, there are costs. First is time. It takes several hours a week to build and maintain a social media plan. This is a crucial area for volunteers. With the right people behind you effort you can use social media to increase community awareness of your church.

You also need to think about the infrastructure. Does your church have an up to date computer and a good internet connection in the building? These purchases maybe needed. Also, think about what you are going to be posting before hand and the time to build content.

You can buy ads on social media. These are inexpensive and although social media should be largely organic. Sometimes kicking things off with a $50 to $100 dollar campaign is helpful. Have a social Sunday. Tell people to bring their mobile devise and walk them through Facebook as a ministry tool. I have seen a Facebook likes go from 40 likes to over 300 in a couple of months with this method.

Identity Material - Logo creation, letterhead, business cards, brochures, welcome packages, ink pens, coffee mugs and everything else can lead to a lot of investment. Just the logo is an expense to itself and if done right will serve the needs of the church for years. Finding someone in the church to do this is a very difficult task and if not handled properly can lead to alienation. What if you ask a non-professional to make a logo (because they are good at crafts) and it turns out to be awful? Hurt and bruised feelings can follow. If you are going to let a person take a whack at designing a logo have it completed in a small group of three or four people with staff guidance. Open and honest discussion are needed to create the right image for the local church.

Logos require specific programs to create them in and also to make them usable in every circumstance. When we complete a logo at Speiro a church will get over 50 versions for every possible use from tee shirts to video screens. Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop are usually needed tools and cost between $20 and $50 dollars a month depending on whether a student version is available. A professional logo can cost between $200 and $5000 depending on quality, time and effort. That is a wide range so, if you are going to use a pro, ask to see samples of their work before you start. Some online companies will provide a logo for less but you really are rolling the dice without personal contact.

Content Creation - Often underestimated. This can take tons of time and can be the downfall of any communications effort. Ok, you are having an event, but who is going to do the press release? The flyer? The full screen for the projector? The article for the newsletter? All of this can take a significant amount of time that the church staff simply does not have. Does this mean that you hire a new person? Or find several volunteers to lighten the burden on the administrative staff? These are all consideration. Also content means photos. Volunteers with cell phones can provide the pictures and posts.

Traditional Advertisement - Lastly and briefly most churches cannot spend enough to make a difference if they advertise. Not only that, they advertise in completely the wrong places. I have no idea why churches would advertise on Christian radio or why they would place an ad in the religious section of the newspaper. Not many non-Christians turn to the religion section of the paper or tune into Christian music stations. Unless the target demographic is people already going to church why would you put money there?  To really make an impact thousands per month needs to be invested for marginal results. The money in most church advertising funds would be better spent on other things.

Lastly, the above are just baseline numbers to find out solid numbers a conversation with a communications expert is needed. At Speiro all we do is help churches sow seed by improving their communication in and outside the church. We are willing to schedule a visit and sit down with a ministry or minister to help out. We are not looking to make a profit but hoping to help out. We at Speiro recognize that each church is different and have different budgetary constraints, but we also feel that money should not hinder the growth of the Kingdom. We will advise and work with you regardless of you budget. Please contact us to schedule a meeting.

Friday, January 15, 2016

We Resolve to Improve

This is the time of year we make resolutions. I have to lose weight. This year I am reading the Bible cover to cover. I am going to go deeper in my prayer life. These are resolutions that have been made and most often broken by February 1st. It seems it is very easy to state good intentions of a resolution, but very difficult to keep consistent in fulfilling those promises to yourself.

The same is true when it comes to changes to communication management of the church. There are limited resources of time and money so when something has to go, it often is the big ideas of how to improve how we communicate inside and outside our church walls. Before long we are back in the old rut of bulletin announcements, flyers and talking about things from the pulpit and then wondering why the response is the same as last year or worse. Click here for specific resolutions to help your church.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Christmas Check List - Check It Twice

Each Christmas churches are filled with Christians looking to celebrate Jesus being born in the little town of Bethlehem, wrapped in swaddling clothes, in a manger of all places.

We know and love that story, but let's be clear, many of the people that will show up at your church for Sunday worship or candlelight services are there purely for the tradition, the warm and fuzzy feelings and a break from all of the busyness of the holiday season. The motives of a lot of attenders will not be pure as the wind driven snow this holiday or any other.

So what are ways that we can try to break through to this cynical group? At Speiro we have put together a short list of things to consider for Christmas to make a good impression on outsiders possibly looking to become insiders. Please read Colossians 4:2-6 before you read this list.

  1. Press releases need to be completed for every activity that the church does! It maybe a little late this year, but do one any way. Press releases are an easy way to tell others about your church. Contact Speiro for a template if you need one.
  2. Make event announcement cards for your church members to pass out to friends and family members. Place the most important event on the front of a half sheet of paper on heavy stock and then list the other events on the back. You cannot promote everything equally! Pick the most important and give it the most space. Most people are looking for a church to go to during the holidays. Make it easy for your members to invite them.
  3. Have warm, friendly greeters outside the door. If you have ever been to a restaurant for the first time and no one opens the door and the hostess stand is empty? You get that feeling in the pit of your stomach not knowing if you walked in the right door or whether you should seat yourself or not. Forever, that feeling can be associated with the business. Avoid giving folks this feeling at your church. They should never wonder if they are walking in the right door. Long-term set up a welcome Ministry Team.
  4. Greeters inside should be both friendly and knowledgeable. This job is more than handing out programs and bulletins. I have manned the door prior to services for years and get a wide variety of questions, from location of the bathroom to "Is the nursery a peanut free zone?". Have helpers nearby to help seat people, show they the way to the nursery and answer questions. Long-term think about common questions and have brochures printed up and made available to assist with frequent questions.
  5. Your bulletin will be what the visitor will be staring at to avoid eye contact with any one else before the service starts. It has to be clean and clearly state who you. Would an unchurched person understand what is going on based on the bulletin? Also, make sure the things you are promoting shed the most positive light on the church. Think about each item. For instance, what does “Last Week’s Giving” tell a visitor? Get rid of churchy words and abbreviations that the unchurched don’t understand. Long-term, think about color, logo, font choice and layout.
  6. If you have a projector and slides, they should walk a person through each step of the church service from the welcome to the invitation. Prior to the start of the service, begin with a friendly welcome slide and then rotate through a total of five more informational slides at most. They should include the welcome, directions to bathrooms or nursery, turn off cell phones and then three more slides that promote church activities that will speak to the visitor. They should be short messages and stay up for just 10 – 15 seconds before they change. You should get through 6 in about a minute. Long-term think about developing a consistent theme.
  7. During the official welcome, let people know how and why to fill out the visitor cards or attendance sheets, first. This will give visitors time to complete the cards. If it is the last thing mentioned during announcements people will miss the chance to fill it out. I have seen people reach for cards when asked and then the music starts and they are asked to stand up. They then put the card down and never fill it out. The other announcements should be about directions for service and three events or programs that you want to mention. These should be the same ones on the slides and in the bulletin. Repetition is effective. Long-term quit winging the announcement time. It is the official introduction of the church to the visitors. A rambling, incoherent, unplanned welcome can turn people away.
  8. Things like communion are foreign to many visitors. During the meditation a short explanation should be on a slide. Also, some time should be taken to explain who can partake, the purpose and the process. The way churches do communion varies even in Christian Churches. Let people know if you hold the emblems and take them together or if the used cups should be placed in racks under the seats, etc. Sometimes it seems like we try to make people uncomfortable for all the wrong reasons. The process should never create anxiety, leave that to the Spirit! Long-term use the slide every week.
  9. The nursery needs to be cleaned, organized and manned. Nothing will run a family out of a church faster than to drop off a child at a dirty, disorganized room with a sixteen year old volunteer in charge with a baby on each hip. There should be a check-in process! Each child should be assigned to a parent. There should be a checkout process. The child can only leave with the person that checked them in. Long-term work out a permanent process with signs and brochures about the nursery and children’s opportunity. 
  10. If your church expects a decision regarding, baptism, prayer or membership at the end of the service make a slide for that. It should appear while the minister is wrapping up the sermon. Again, each church is different so let people know what is going on. Every person should know how to respond to what they have heard. 

This is just a short list of things that can be accomplished at any church. There are several other things to consider, from special parking, signs, website updates, to lighting in the auditorium. I would encourage you to look at your church as a visitor and see what improvements can be made so we can be wise in the way we act towards outsiders and make the most out of every opportunity.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Go Ahead Blast Away

One more bullet in your arsenal is the email blast. 
When it comes to internal communication we only have a limited amount of bullets to shoot so we should use all of them in our arsenal. This is because it is often hard to tell which will hit the mark. As a church leader I have seen this first hand as I have given announcements from the pulpit, shown slides with the same announcement and put the very same information in the bulletin. Yet when I ask someone why they didn't come to the event the answer is usually, "I didn't know about it." or "Was that this week?"

I usually stand there incredulous, with my jaw about an inch off the floor. They are either lying or we are still using communication devices that tend to stream in one ear and flow out the other, without stopping in between. I'm not sure which it is, but I can tell you the church is never hurt by using better communication systems available today. So here is one more shot you can fire, the email blast.

If you are going to use the blast as one of your bullets here are some pointers that should help you improve communication:
  1. Get a pure list of all email addresses. This is very important because if you have no list, you can't email people. Pure means that they are current and active. 
  2. Maintain the list. You will get notification when an email is rejected. Just one out of place number or letter and the email will be floating around in cyberspace for eternity. Be vigilant in contacting members as they change addresses or correct mistakes.
  3. Make a template or even use gmail. The only real requirement for the email blast is that the system you choose can house a contact list. After that it depends on how much time and effort you want to devote to the blast. Some template based systems can tell you who opened the email, who clicked on the various links and if they forwarded it etc. Templates rather easy to use. Even a person with limited computer knowledge can fill in the blanks on a template. Most of these template based systems are free depending on volume.
  4. Use the subject line wisely. This is the place where you will peak the recipient's interest. Give them a compelling reason to open the email. 
  5. Determine when you will send the blast out. Once a week would be enough but even a monthly email blast can work. A word of caution, don't over do it with daily announcements. People will start to ignore them. You can break the rules and email more frequently for emergency prayer requests, service cancellations or other important notices.
  6. Remain consistent. Try to always send the email blast out on the same day each week or month even the same hour is a good idea.
  7. Make things fit on one page. People hate to scroll down. This means clear, sharp writing or using links to pages on the website. Start the story in the blast and then finish the info on the website. Important things like who, what, why, when and where for events should be somewhere in the blast. Only more in depth information should be on the external link. 
  8. Encourage members to pass the information along and sign up for social media.
  9. If your system allows it, see who is opening and clicking and who is not. This can be a marker for people that have a deeper interest in church activities. It can also let you know if people are reading what you are sending.
  10. Don't be afraid of feedback. Online or in person ask folks for ways to improve things. After all this is about internal communication make it a two way street whenever possible.