I don’t normally use my personal blog to write about work issues. But today, I’m going to use this space to talk about communications director stuff because it’s a convenient way to share information. If you are one of my regular readers, please feel free to just skip over this one.
I’m part of several groups for communications directors on Facebook. These groups have been an incredible resource for me to gather information and find out how other churches deal with issues we collectively face. I’m usually pretty quiet in these groups, gathering more information than I share.
Recently, someone asked if anyone had a communications handbook they could share. One of the things I love most about my job at The Sanctuary Church is creating process and strategy, so I mentioned that I have created several documents. A good number of people asked me if I could share my policy. Rather than e-mailing them individually to each person who asked, I thought it would be easier to post here. I also wanted to explain how I use these documents.
Two years ago, one of my projects for the summer was writing a Communications Policy for our church. When I started in this job eight years ago, I didn’t feel the need to have a set of “rules” to help me determine what we would and would not communicate as a church. Back then, we often had so much room in our weekly bulletin that our office manager would use clip art to fill the white space.
Much has changed since then. Not only has our church grown, which creates more requests from leaders to communicate events, but the way we communicate also has expanded. These days, not only do I have to decide what we will communicate each week, but I also have to determine what communication channels will be used for each type of event. Almost every event makes our weekly e-mail and printed bulletin, but not everything will be announced from stage, get a printed postcard or advertised on Facebook and Instagram.
Working at a church is so different from working at a newspaper where I could objectively determine what type of news deserved to be covered without worrying about hurting anyone’s feelings. When you work at a church, you are dealing with people who you also do life with. These are awesome people with great hearts who are trying to serve the community. I love these people personally, and I want to help them as much as possible.
But the reality is we don’t have the time or space to communicate every event or activity that every person would like us to promote. Instead of deciding what I can and can’t promote on an individual basis, every time someone asks, I created my Communications Policy to set boundaries. Now, when people ask me, I don’t have to invent a set of rules each time. It’s clear what we will and won’t communicate as a church. I also try to give people ideas for how they can communicate their personal projects to our church in a more organic way.
One of the most helpful parts of the document is the section called, “Tiers of Communication.” In this section, I break down what communication channels we will use to promote an event, based on how large the audience is in our church.
One thing I have learned is that by trying to communicate too many things or communicate them all equally, I am actually working against myself. As the Communications Director, I have to decide the main message I believe is most important for our church members to hear each week. By giving them too many choices or too many competing messages, I am actually making it more difficult for them to hear and understand the main message.
I use the Communications Policy in two ways:
Often an attender of our church will ask me if I can communicate a personal project they are launching in the community. I use the pre-written policy as an objective way to explain why I can’t do this. It’s not personal. It doesn’t mean I don’t love what the person is doing. It’s just the policy.
I also go through the policy page-by-page with new ministry leaders. It helps us all get on the same page so they know what to expect. I ask every ministry leader to fill out a “media plan” to explain their upcoming events, and to do this within a set amount of time (usually six weeks) before the event.
The second document that has been very helpful to me is our branding guidelines. I took most of these ideas from the branding guides of much larger churches, and I’m still working on making this document “our own.” (Since this document is only used internally, some sections are basically copied from other churches. I am still working on updating this document.)
Even though it’s a work in progress, the branding guidelines have been helpful in several ways:
When ministry leaders are communicating their own events to a smaller group, I can give them this booklet so they use the same standards we do when we communicate to the entire church. The guide helps ensure leaders use our logo, colors and fonts correctly. It also explains the “style rules” we use in writing.
I also have used our branding guidelines with outside companies who might be working on a project for us. For example, we have been working on a renovation project in our space, and I shared the document with our interior designer so she would have the exact colors we use in our color pallet.
Here are the links to both of these documents.:
The Sanctuary Church Communications Policy
The Sanctuary Church branding guide
Let me know if you find these helpful!