Principles of Effective Communications
For Churches and Non-Profits
Principle #1: Guests come first
One of the challenges in communications for churches and non-profits is that we do a tremendous number of recurring events, most of which are attended by the same people each time. Eventually our communications tend to evolve into a series of reminders instead of true promotions.
If a first-time visitor read one of your publications, would they be able to understand it? If someone tried to attend one of your events based only on the information published on your website, would it be enough?
Here are two simple ways to make your communications more guest-friendly:
From a church bulletin: “MOPS meets in the MPR after flocks.”
This poorly worded announcement is trying to invite visitors to join the Mother’s of Preschools group (MOPS) that meets in the gym (multi-purpose room MPR) after Sunday morning classes (flocks). Your members will understand all the insider-speak, but visitors won’t have a clue.
A large suburban church promoted their student ministry as “Route 66”. They had an outstanding program with great facilities, but nowhere in the building or the website was there any explanation that Route 66 was the student ministry. There were announcements for “Route 66”, but no explanation of who that group was.
We love our acronyms and branding our people, places, and things, but this can make our communications impossible for an outside to understand. Define acronyms, explain branding terms, write for the outsider.
Provide the details
Bulletin announcement: “Missions Banquet at 6pm tonight in the family room.”
This reminder is fine for most of your members, but it doesn’t provide anywhere near enough information for a first-time guest. Is there a cost? Do I need to dress up for this? Do I bring my kids? Is childcare provided? Do I need to bring my checkbook (is this a fund raiser)?
First time guests need significantly more details than your membership. Even simple things like the street address need to be provided. Where is the event? What time? Is there a cost? Are children welcome, is childcare provided? How long does it last? What is the dress code? Where do I park?
You don’t need all the details on every announcement, but they should at least be included on the website (the announcements refer to the website for details). Please don’t require first-time visitors to call the office for the details.
Guests come first
It’s easy to forget this principle when you are cranking out promotions and news for a thousand events a year, but your guests will thank you if you take the time to write a little extra for them.