Thursday, August 6, 2015

Weird Ways to Impact Communication

No logo, no church wierd is that? 
There are several methods, over the years, that we have used to impact communication and some are less conventional than others. Some are even down right weird but are functional. Here are just a few that have had an impact.

  1. What says Thanksgiving more than John Wayne? - That's right. To promote our annual Thanksgiving meal at church we decided to use an image of John Wayne from the movie The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. The words covering the poster were, "Thanksgiving Dinner - Be There Pilgrim". I have never seen such a response to our Thanksgiving effort. People were talking. Some liked it and some complained, but attendance was extremely high. Don't be afraid to go out on a limb, be professional but have fun.
  2. Recently we promoted a Sunday evening church service and fellowship time. On all of the
    Attend or else. 
    materials it said, "Fellowship Mandatory" in an old fashioned circus poster style. Taking the cue from the announcement slide, from the pulpit it was announced that fellowship was mandatory as well. I expected some blow back because in churches we usually ask and rarely tell. A principle that flies in the face of all of the marketing and advertising principles I have ever been taught, but in church you usually use the softer glove. The response was overwhelming and quite successful. Don't be afraid to tell people to do something.  You will be surprised if done with the proper motivation and right event. 
  3. Giving kids video camera and assignments sounds like a dangerous idea. It isn't. It is fun and a way to engage a different group that is looking for a way to contribute.  The youth group was broken into teams and went out with an assigned list of things to do in a video scavenger hunt. (No children or video equipment was damaged in this experiment.) The kids loved it, they got to showcase their talent and love for God and will never forget the experience. Probably because it is on YouTube. Let go and allow others to express themselves. 
  4. Don't claim credit. That's a real stretch and downright weird. You mean we have gone to the trouble of collecting donations, signing up volunteers, bringing out tables and chairs and spent our whole Saturday giving out school supplies to disadvantaged families and we don't hang a banner or hand out pencils with our name on them. That's right. Sometimes even the best intentions, if filled with service times and banners with our logo, come off as pushy to people in need. Sometimes think hard about ministry and less about promotion. 
  5. Quit being scared of stating the truth. In our church blog we cover all sorts of subjects. But none of them has garnered as many views and comments as the blog, "I'm a Christian - Should I Get A Tattoo". The article was a well written piece (I wrote it) about what the Bible says about our bodies and whether we should allow someone to poke holes in it and fill it with ink. The funny thing is as a church we try to reach out in as many ways as possible, but that one weird blog article has more hits from more sources than any other. Don't live in fear of what the Bible says...just say it. Read it here.
This is just a short list of the different ways we have seen success when communicating with others. Feel free to use any of the ideas but, just as importantly tell us what you have done that is a bit out of the box but has worked well. I am looking forward to the response.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

5 Things Communications Plans Can't Do

Sometimes we find ourselves shouting at the top of our lungs and it seems that no one pays any attention at all. This can be very frustrating as we expect that when we talk, people listen, but this is not always the case and even the best communication plan can fail or be ignored. This is often because we do not realize there are certain realities that even great communication cannot fix.

Usually you see posts from Speiro on what improved communications plans, both internally and externally, can do for your congregation and church. But, it is also very important to understand what a communication plan cannot do as well. This will alleviate disappointment when expectations are not met and this can also interject some reality into the excitement that many have when beginning a new effort to communicate more effectively. So here is a short list of things improved communication efforts cannot do that might apply to your church.

  1. You can't make people listen. I have seen this with my own eyes. We put an event in the bulletin, the preacher talks about it in a sermon, an elder makes it the focus of the announcement time, posters are made by the dozens and hung around the church, flyers are placed on windshields, a slide was made, a postcard is mailed, it is tweeted, posted and blogged about. Yet when you ask a fellow member why they weren't at the event, they say they weren't told. Let he who has ears let him hear. We can't make people pay attention.  
  2. Communication cannot improve the subject of the effort. Check this mistake as been there, done that. I was in a meeting where a big event was being discussed and it was very important to get the word out. It was to be a huge event with thousands of people expected, tons of activities, great speakers and a tremendous impact. Yet, after all of the promotional effort, one guy shows up with a popup tent, the speakers are terrible and a hundred participants are milling about with no excitement. I see the unfolding disaster and try to find a hole to hide in. If something is a bad idea, poorly planned and poorly executed no amount of publicity can pull it from the fire.   
  3. It cannot make people more spiritual. Communications can enthuse, inspire, entertain and can even persuade in some circumstances. However, if you are looking for people to change their lives spiritually because you have done a great job with the graphics, then you are being unrealistic. This is why Speiro (to sow) is named Speiro. We understand that we are commanded to spread seed, but not in charge of the final outcome.  
  4. You cannot make people as excited as you about your ministry and projects. We have all been there. You get ready for the party, hang the balloons and streamers, bake the cake, get the ice cream and set up all the games and then you sit and wonder, "Is anyone going to show up?" Being a part of the communication team is a lot like that. Often times we throw ourselves wholeheartedly into a project and do our best, most creative thinking and design. But, it seems that no one cares about the event or the hours of thought and preparation that went into it. When you communicate, the hope is that people will take it to heart, apply it to their lives and some how the message will have an impact or they will at least show up! This is not a realistic expectation. It is hard to hear but many people don't think your ministry matters and often will complain about the resources you are using to further the church's communication efforts. Get over it and keep using your talents for God! You can't make people get enthused.   
  5. It will not replace personal evangelism. I hate to say it but a lot of Christians are looking for a way to be a Christian, but not actually have to talk about their faith with anyone. A communication plan can enhance our efforts, by providing videos, brochures, handouts and dozens of other devises. But no slick ad will ever replace personal evangelism. We have to be authentic and live our lives of faith out in the presence of non-Christians. We need to be willing and ready to answer questions in love and have an explanation of our faith. A good communications plan can help but it is no substitute.    
The one thing that being a part of the communications team can do is burn you out. When I was in the news business, I would say to interns that you have to care about the subject of the report. If they got to a location where the story was taking place, and they didn't care, they should sit in the car until they do. This applies to anyone who does the bulletin at a church, distributes flyers, produces videos or does graphic designs for events. When you get into the mode of just knocking out the work, it is time to examine your heart more closely. Because we are in charge of the communication we should care about what we are doing and do it to our utmost. If you find yourself just going through the motions reconnect with God through worship, prayer, fellowship and Bible study.

Just remember that you cannot control everything about your plan. The important thing is that you have one and that you stay faithful to the execution of that plan regardless of things you can't control.