It seems there is a new communication channel introduced weekly, if not daily! Some have been long lived, like Facebook, and some were one-hit wonders only to fizzle out, like Vine.
Many times, a quick scroll through my social media feed and reading through communication blogs leave me feeling defeated in this mass world of instant communication.
Am I doing enough? Am I choosing the best way to reach the world with the greatest message in the world? Am I making sure our members feel connected with our various ministries?
Who’s My Audience?
Working to identify your audience can be the most daunting task. We want everyone to hear our message, right? IT IS THE GREATEST MESSAGE IN THE WORLD!
My congregation covers a large spectrum of demographics. Our oldest member is 91 and has recently asked I mail him our church bulletin each week, since he can no longer make it to Sunday morning worship. Of course I said yes with a smile. Obviously, I am not going to do this for everyone. Not only would our postage expense be through the roof, but I would also quickly lose my audience, as this is not the best way to reach the majority.
Instead I have taken time to evaluate what channels reach the MAJORITY of our congregation and our community. Not only is it important to choose the channels that reach the majority, but it is also important to choose a message that resonates with the majority and uses your time effectively.
Doing it All without Doing it All
On numerous occasions I have had members in generations X and Y come to me and ask why we are not on Twitter or doing more Facebook live videos, and they ask when we are going to start live streaming our services. On the other hand, I have had baby boomers come and ask why we stopped mailing a monthly newsletter.
When I joined the team at Holy Trinity three years ago, I quickly realized there was NO way I could maintain daily tasks while trying to keep up with the ever-changing communication world and satisfying everyone. So, I took some time to talk with our pastors and understand what was important to them, and I looked at what channels I could use that reached the vast majority. I knew that by doing this, we may not be reaching everyone. But we would be more effective and concise in our communication while being more efficient.
I established something that I call the FRAMEWORK. Through our website, electronic newsletter, social media, and weekly bulletin insert, we are able to communicate to our audiences effectively, while using additional platforms and resources as needed to support our communication efforts. The framework has provided the pathway to effectively reach our congregation and our community while increasing engagement.
Website—Peter Frank calls this your home base and I can’t echo this enough. When someone tells you to go to an amazing restaurant or visit a new city, 95 percent of the time you google it, right? So, what makes you think people aren’t going to google your church? Your website, many times, becomes the FIRST impression made by your church. I encourage you to invest in this channel. Invest time, invest resources, and invest in making it convey WHO you are as a congregation. You don’t have to have EVERYTHING on it and it doesn’t have to be the latest and greatest. But, it does need enough content to let visitors know what to expect on Sunday morning and let them know what makes your church unique. A website also needs to be user-friendly and make the necessary resources for members of your congregation easy to access. The website shouldn’t be all for your members or all for visitors; there needs to be a balance of information for both audiences.
Social Media—Social media, in my opinion, is very tricky. Rules are always changing and, like I said before, there seems to be a new platform every week. Although Facebook has recently changed the rules and it seems the younger generation is not fully engaged there, I firmly believe Facebook is a platform that deserves your time. There are 1.86 billion monthly active users on Facebook, and they cover a wide age range.
The other social platform we use is YouTube. Being able to organize and share our videos easily within our digital communication has helped reach many members who are home-bound or have moved away but love to hear our pastors preach.
Obviously there are more social media channels than I can count and we use only two. Yes, two! And I am totally ok with it!
Electronic Newsletter—Our Electronic newsletter (E-News) goes out every Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. Over the years we have revamped this, and we averaging a 38 percent open rate. Since the average office worker receives 121 emails on a daily basis, we allow individuals to choose to receive this rather than uploading a list and sending it to every member. As much as I want everyone to get our newsletter, I don’t want to add to the clutter.
Print—Each week, we have a front-and-back insert that goes in our bulletin. This is seriously the holy grail (in our congregation’s mind) of communication platforms. Seriously, though. If I could get away with auctioning off space on this insert, I would! This little piece of paper is one of the most effective pieces of paper in our communication framework. As much as I want to toss it to the wayside, I see people carrying it in their purses, keeping it with them in the car all week, or even putting it on their fridges. To me, this shows that it is effective and worth our time! High-five to that!
Cutting through the Chaos to Reach Your Audience
It is inevitable that someone will complain about not knowing about an event or activity or will desire another platform. But remember your framework and that the channels within that framework are what make communication to your target audiences effective.
Reaching the majority through consistent and compelling content is what my goal will always be. Establishing a framework with multiple communication platforms that is manageable ensures that what we are communicating to our audiences is effective and that we are working in an efficient way. The average person’s attention span is about eight seconds, and individuals receive more than 124 newspapers’ worth of data a day! Are they choosing to read and engage with what you are saying?
What is your communication framework? Are there channels you could take out or channels you should add? Either way, it can be hard to make changes. Leveraging channels that effectively reach the majority of your audiences will help cut through the chaos and allow for meaningful communication.
Hear more from Stacy as she talks live about finding your audience and choosing your communication channels.
Thursday, April 19 at 11:30 a.m. (CT) on Facebook