When the Church Online Communications Comprehensive started thirteen weeks ago, the discussion of online communications started with a focus on strategy. Since then, the topics have become more specific with information about individual channels and tactics.
Now that all of that has been discussed, it’s time to take a step back and see how to pull everything together. Figuring out how to get started is difficult, but not nearly as difficult as determining how to find the time to do it. Here are some ways to make communications take less time and some of my favorite tools for maximizing efficiency.
“How Do I Find the Time?”
Unfortunately, there is no secret answer to this question that allows you to get everything done in the desired amount of time, but there are a few things I’ve learned that will help address it. First, it’s important understand that not everything has to get done right away, and many of the things you think you have to do are just good ideas for later. Try adding things to a to-consider list rather than to a to-do list.
Second, quality matters, but only to a point. If you’re a perfectionist like me, you want all your work to be of the highest quality, regardless of its importance. There certainly is value in that attitude, but it can also make things difficult when you don’t have enough time to get everything done. The most important tasks on your to-do list will depend on your role in the church. If you’re a pastor, don’t spent too much time editing your daily devotion video if you have to do a shut-in visit. If you’re an office administrator, that email can be sent after one round of proofreading if you still have to finish the newsletter.
Efficiency Over Quantity
For me, being efficient is being a good steward of my time, giving proper time and attention to each task, completing the right tasks, and asking for help when needed. To be clear, I’m not always efficient, but the days I leave the office feeling content with how my work day went are the days when I didn’t waste any time.
There are three keys to being efficient that I try to implement as much as possible: planning, organization, and automation.
As the saying goes, “failing to plan is planning to fail.” When you have a plan in place, you know not only where to start, but also what the end looks like and how to get there. I recommend dividing your communication plans into three categories:
- Ongoing Efforts: These are elements of communication that happen every month, every week, or even every day. Efforts such as bulletins, newsletters, or daily devotions can become such a part of your routine that you forget how much time they take up. Be sure to place them at the top of your communication priorities.
- Campaigns: These are the big initiatives that weigh on your mind and your to-do list for weeks at a time. These may be the Sunday School rally day, the Christmas program, or the summer mission trip. These certainly aren’t routine and they can’t be thrown together at the last minute, but when properly planned out, they can be accomplished with minimal issues.
- Micro-Campaigns: These are the outliers, the communication tasks that aren’t part of your regular schedule but don’t take up too much time. These are unlikely to be planned far in advance, so as they sneak up on you, it’s easy to underestimate the amount of time they take. Look for similarities among these efforts and recycle your work when you can.
Favorite tool: Asana, an online to-do list that focuses on a simple workflow.
Having strong organization skills means that you can easily implement your plans without being sidetracked. Announcing VBS is a lot easier when you can see exactly what you did last year and update the plan accordingly. Here are a few things to prioritize as you organize:
- Plans: A plan is only good if you have it in front of you. If you spent time creating a plan in the past and just need to tweak it, make sure it is easy to find, and share it with your team.
- Actions: Organizing your actions so you know what goes out when will prevent you from scheduling too many things on one day, and it will provide a natural prioritization.
- Assets: Spending more than ten seconds trying to find the right version of your logo is a waste of time. Any asset that you regularly use should be named and filed in a logical manner.
- Data: Contact information, email lists, registration numbers—all of this data is critical to communication and should be just a few clicks away when you need it.
Favorite tool: Airtable, an online database platform that claims to help you “organize anything.”
If it’s repeatable, it should be able to be automated. This means that if I can do something with minimal thought and zero creativity, I should find a way to let a computer do that task for me so I can save time and focus on more important things only I can do.
This means using integrations across different applications to share data back and forth. For example, if someone completes an online form, I can save the person’s information in a database and send them an automatic follow-up email without any manual intervention. Setting up the automation can take more time than repeating the action, but that’s ok, as long as you learn enough in the process to do it quicker next time.
Favorite tool: IFTTT, an online integration directory that allows you to connect different tools and automate actions between them.
One way you can take all the above ideas and use them in your online communications is through campaign templates. Each template lays out all the individual communication actions in a single, repeatable format. It should be a visual representation of the campaign and easy enough to understand that the next person can use it without a problem.
Here is an example of what a simple campaign template might look like for a pastor’s sermon blog.
I especially like campaign templates because they show how to leverage the content framework. It quickly becomes clear why your social media channels (Outposts) should point to your blog posts (Media Empire), and why your blog posts should lead to conversion pages on your website (Home Base).
Creating and implementing campaign templates requires you to plan and organize, and implementing automation only makes it easier. And this leads to consistency in your communication.
Looking for Some Examples?
The free download for this week’s session is titled Saving Time with Campaign Templates. Use these three sample templates as starting points for developing your own campaign templates.
Free Training Course
This blog post was part of the training series Church Online Communications Comprehensive. All the course materials are available online for free, and you can move through the course at your own pace. Start working toward an effective online communications strategy for your church today!