A couple of months ago, I compared communication to pipelines. Communication is about moving a piece of information from one area to another: from the communicator to the listener. Therefore, the cleaner you keep the pipes the information travels through, the better chance it has to reach the audience. I want to continue that thought in this article, but move the analogy to a stream: communication streams.
What are some other ways you can keep the stream of information from getting clogged? After all, we don’t want to deal with dammed information.
Filter Your Communication Streams
What will you communicate through your communication streams?
In church communication, it’s vital to have a filter in place that helps funnel what gets pumped into your communication streams. Your filter should be the vision of your church or the key ideas and initiatives your leadership has set. If your church, for example, is committed to building believers, reaching seekers, and renewing your community those three statements alone could be great filters for what you communicate. If you’re asked to communicate something that doesn’t fit one of those three filters, throw it out! Whatever those key ideas or initiatives are for your church, let those things be the filters that decide what information travels through your communication streams.
Sometimes determining your filters also means deciding with the leadership of your church what types of events and initiatives will be communicated. Some churches assign an emphasis to their communication stream. [e.g. If something applies to the whole church or a major segment of the church, it gets maximum exposure. If something applies to a significant portion of the church (men, women, children, youth), it gets good exposure. If it’s a niche event or reaching a small group of people, it gets light exposure.]
However you choose to determine and place filters around your communication stream, it’s important that all of the content and information flowing from your source passes through those filters.
Structure Your Communication Streams
All streams have an entry point and an exit point, so where are your streams flowing?
Once you have a clear stream flowing, you need to consider the structure of your communications. In most cases, streams have already been established in our churches, but it’s never a bad thing to look at them and see where they could use new tributaries added or removed.
In today’s world, people are given an abundance of options for ways they can get information. Churches have bulletins, websites, printed material, Facebook Pages, Twitter accounts, Instagram accounts, etc. The audience for each of those communication streams looks different and each has unique ways they interact and engage.
When looking at existing church communication streams, look for measurable, quantifiable ways that you can gauge their effectiveness. A few ideas on how to do that would include:
- For Print … How many of your print pieces are left over after they are distributed? If your church is printing 1,000 bulletins per weekend and more than half of them are left behind, you may need to rethink what you’re putting into people’s hands. Also, measure calls-to-action from print. That can be anything from seeing how many responses you get from a response card or publishing a link or email address that’s specific to print.
- For Announcements … In-service announcements should call people to immediate action. Whether it’s picking up their phones and texting to get information and respond, going to sign up for something, or raising their hand, create an easy way to get an instant response. Set some internal goals around your announcements [e.g. ‘We want to see 30 people sign up for this volunteer opportunity.” Then, measure the response.]
- For the Web… Analytics matter—there’s proof in numbers. If your church isn’t tracking analytics on your website, you need to be! Take a look at what content people are accessing the most on your website. And take a look at where people are coming to your site from—be it direct hits, social media, or other sources.
- For Social Media … Determining social media effectiveness isn’t just by looking at the numbers of new Fans and followers. I think a good measure of social media effectiveness for churches lies in giving people something to talk about. See how people interact with the content you create in the form of how they reply, retweet, repost, or share it.
Careful and regular evaluation can help you identify any blockages as you look at existing communication streams.
If you feel like it’s time to dig some new tributaries that information can flow through, a few things to remember would be:
- Who is this reaching?
- Who is going to manage the flow of content?
- What type of content needs to be created for this stream?
- What existing stream could be merged with this or could this replace?
- How will we measure effectiveness?
Keep your information flow clean. Remove obstacles and let rivers of living communication flow through your church.