Nothing will stop a project faster than a lack of communication. To fill the gap, misinformation will quickly spread. This will lead to ever increasing amounts of frustration from leaders to stakeholders until overall apathy envelops the project. In turn, the project will stall out or people will come to resent it.
To avoid a disastrous outcome, communication needs to be a vital part of any project. However, churches rarely plan on how things will be communicated. Instead, somebody will mention making some pre- or post-service announcements along with an article in the newsletter. While that might work on something simple or routine, it will spell utter doom for a large or major project. This is where a communication plan comes into play. Taking the time to carefully and thoughtfully plan out communications will greatly increase a positive outcome and project completion.
What Is a Communication Plan?
A communication plan is simply a strategic guide to communicating with various groups of people both inside and outside a congregation. The plan spells out who, what, when, where, why, and how.
- Why do you need to communicate? (What’s your purpose?)
- What do you want/need to communicate? (What information do they need?)
- Whom do you need to communicate with? (Who is your audience?)
- When should you communicate? Or at what frequency? (How often do you need to communicate with them?)
- Where should this communication take place? (What modes and mediums will/can/should you use to communicate through?)
- How will that information get there? (Who is tasked with getting the information to the right place? Whom do you need to contact to use a channel?)
This tool enables a person or team to communicate effectively with church leadership (church workers, councils, boards, and/or committees who indirectly oversee the project and/or lead the church), the project team (those directly involved in overseeing or running the project), and members of the congregation (stakeholders). A communication plan gives clear guidelines for how information will and should be shared, who is responsible for sharing the information, and who needs to be “looped in” at various stages of the project.
Filling in the answers to the above questions creates the initial communication plan, or action plan. Following the action plan helps to design the media needed in the communication campaign for the project. Keep in mind that feedback should be sought as the plan is implemented and the plan adjusted as needed. For example, it might be discovered that the frequency of information to a certain group should be increased or decreased, or that a medium should be added or dropped because it is not effective, or that a different person is a better fit for communicating to a certain group, etc. In this sense, a communication plan is a somewhat living document that should be updated as necessary.
Why Have or Create a Communication Plan?
- Helps to target communication accurately by giving structure on who needs to be reached and how.
- Gives a written document that everyone can turn to.
- Sets clear expectations for how and when updates are shared.
- Makes communications more efficient and effective.
- Provides for incorporating feedback to the project and gives clear avenues for feedback to be given.
- Can be long-term, helping a project stay on track or keeping people aware of it.
- Makes everything easier. Spending some time upfront will save everybody stress and time later on.
How Should It Be Organized?
There are four ways most communication plans are organized.
- Medium of communication
- Person/group in charge of a particular communication (the “owner”)
How the plan is organized is up to the person or group that puts it together. It should be put together in a way that makes sense to those who will be using it or referring to it. It is usually easiest to create a communication plan in a spreadsheet software. If done this way, a plan can have different pages or sheets that organize the plan in different ways.
Developing a Communication Plan
Creating a communication plan can seem overwhelming, especially if it is somebody’s first time in doing so. Even though there are a few steps, the process is simple and painless. Taking each step one at a time is the best way.
- Identify the communication team. (For a large project, it is better to have a team instead of a single person—a congregation might already have a board or committee in place, i.e., a PR board.)
- Identify the purpose of the project. (Capital campaign? VBS? What is the project and the project’s goal?)
- Identify the communication goals. (Raise awareness? Find volunteers? Announce events?)
- Identify the audiences. (Families? Community? Youth? Singles?)
- Consider resources. (What do you have the money or ability to do? Who could help you do things?)
- Determine frequency. (How often will you communicate with different groups?)
- Plan content. (Outline content, channel, design, etc.)
- Determine the owners. (Who is responsible for newsletter articles? Who will oversee social media?)
- Determine any possible obstacles or roadblocks.
- Create a communication plan. (Write down the various answers to the above points.)
- Create content (either as a team or individual owners).
- If owners will be creating their own content, it is wise to have branding guidelines in place. It is also good to have items reviewed by either the whole team or trusted editors before being published. This will give communications a polished, unified feeling instead of a chaotic mess.
- Evaluate. (How will the plan be evaluated and adjusted based on results and feedback?)
A capital campaign to raise $2.5 million to build a temple in Jerusalem, which includes some rebranding and facility work of the tabernacle as needed.
- Keep stakeholders informed of campaign timeline, budget, and campaign needs.
- Provide clear insight into any decisions needed or roadblocks.
- Provide structured opportunities for feedback from stakeholders.
- Give stakeholders needed information to gain acceptance of the campaign.
|Director Team||N/A||Major milestones/CTS meetings||Email or team communication platform, in person||High-level decisions involving budget, keep informed of progress, solicit feedback when needed|
|Campaign Team||N/A||Major milestones, CT meetings||Use a team communication platform (i.e., basecamp, Slack, etc.)||High-level decisions and final approvals, keep informed of progress, solicit feedback when needed|
|Communication Team||N/A||All||Daily/weekly/monthly check-ins through team communication platform, weekly/monthly meetings||Keeps to campaign timeline for production of communication items (newsletters, social media posts, etc.)|
|David||King||Major milestones, daily/weekly/monthly as needed||Scroll, in person||Keep informed of progress, solicit feedback when needed|
|Aaron||Chief Priest||Major milestones, as needed||In person, email||Keep informed of progress, solicit feedback when needed, help as needed|
|Israelites||Taxpayers||Major milestones, completion||Royal herald, mailers||Keep informed of progress|
- Social Media
- Campaign booklets
- Case statement
- Prayer booklets
- Others as needed
- Regular royal court updates
- Initial commitment event
- Public comment?
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