Prayer, planning, and communication comprise the three-legged stool of effective mission and organizational management for any church. We are pretty good at prayer and most of us can develop an effective, strategic plan. However, we often take for granted or ignore communication. So I recommend that congregations annually audit their communications strategy.
A communications audit has two focal points: internal communication and external communication. Internal communication is how you communicate to your staff, your board, and your members. External communication is the message you send to your target audience or community. An audit can improve operations and enhance your mission through these steps:
1. Organize a sub-committee of your board and volunteers from your congregation to manage a review or audit. Do not do this alone or with just staff.
2. Compile a list of all methods used to communicate internally and externally. This could include a variety of methods.
c. Social media platforms (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
d. Phone messaging
e. Video communication
f. Other digital platforms
3. Review your materials for readability. What grade level are you writing to? You can set up your Word program to show you readability statistics in the spelling and grammar preferences section. Your target readability scale should be grade 9.0 or lower.
4. Facilitate focus groups from your congregation and/or community. Have them review your church bulletins, membership cards, visitor cards, etc., to assess their attractiveness and how quickly a person gets to the message. Make this a safe and open conversation, and record relevant suggestions.
5. Examine patterns or consistency in images. How uniform is the “branding” you are using?
6. Develop a congregational survey to learn their awareness of your communication tools.
7. Be intentional about communicating specific details of your vision. Get outside help (i.e., from a communications firm) if desired.
8. Get an outside review from a PR agency, communications firm, or university .
9. Analyze how often you communicate to your congregation, staff, or board of directors. Quantify your responses and then ask these audiences to assess the effectiveness of the communication. Findings may include:
a. I never hear from the pastor unless something is wrong.
b. I never knew we were doing this.
c. Why am I the last to know?
Note: Be prepared for candor. Candor will help you refine your strategy and operations.
10. Review the findings of your audit with the board and with the congregation.
One of my mentors challenged me to remember that when dealing with communications and a membership organization, which is exactly what a church is, remember three things: Communicate, communicate, and communicate! Transparency, honesty, and consistency of messaging will help advance your mission.