You can have the best communication strategy in the world and still fail.
Why? Because your internal communication is poor.
When you set out to build something, we draw up plans, create budgets, and hire the right manpower to get it done. Many of us in the digital space understand this part really well.
Where we often struggle is communicating the plan to those who are going to be on the ground carrying out the plan. Just because you have said something once does not mean it was understood, and trust us, there is a big difference between someone reading it and understanding it.
Proper internal communication requires responsibility. The responsibility is not simply to relay information but to ensure that those who have received it have read it, understood it, agreed with it, asked questions about it, and then come to own it.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw
Great internal communication depends on the communication director becoming the CEO of several things at the church.
Be the CEO of Being the Central Hub
As the communication director, you are in a unique position. You are a central hub of information and vision for many in your church. You are also probably the only staff member that every other staff member must work with in order to do some part of their job.
If you’re a pastor reading those two sentences, take a moment and really internalize what that means.
When I realized this at my previous church, I decided that I would start sending a monthly email to all staff (about 80 people) with a list of upcoming events and initiatives, dates, sign up links, an explanation, and a person to contact for more info.
But first, I would send the email to my boss, the executive pastor, and the campus pastors to read it over first. They knew this was their chance to inspect info and add/subtract things I didn’t know about. After that, if it went out wrong, it was on them.
Then I would receive feedback, and email a proof again to my immediate boss and if we were good, I would schedule it to send out the next Monday Morning using my staff email.
That’s just what I did. What could you do to help your staff understand what’s happening ahead of time?
Be the CEO of FYI
Also, you may find out information about one event that will directly affect another department. This is a simple fix, but it also helps you with toxic staff situations.
When a possible issue is discovered, immediately email parties involved and say “Hey, I was talking to Bill and he told me about something you may need to know. I wanted to make sure that you guys were on the same page because that could affect something that Jill is planning, etc.” If you don’t know if the information is supposed to be shared, ask Bill if he minds if you share it with Jill.
The larger the staff, the more difficult it will be to keep details straight. But since they all come through the Communications department, we can be the gentle force for clarity that removes barriers between departments that allow communication to flow freely.
Be the CEO of Having Your Team’s Back
Another way to improve Internal Communication is to anticipate the needs of your team before they do.
If student ministry is doing a big event and you know they will want a photographer, as soon as you hear about it, let them know that you’re going to start looking for one and take care of it for them. Don’t make them have to ask.
Also, go ahead and drop a skeleton plan for marketing/advertising in your task management software for when they are ready to talk about what they need for that. We have a template for our partners already they can quickly copy and start filling out.
It’s their event, but it’s really not their calling to figure out how to motivate people to show up. It’s yours. They certainly need to care about that part of it, but when they feel you’ve got their back then it will be much easier to trust you with it.
When they show up in your office a day before their big event apologizing for not asking for a photographer sooner, you want to be able to say “Don’t worry, we already got one lined up for you.” You’ll never forget the look on their face.
Be the CEO of Internal Communication Best Practices
Since there are so many other things we could talk about on this topic, here are a few rapid-fire tips for keeping your internal communications open and clear:
- Never assume pastoral staff are thinking about marketing or communication.
- An extra reminder or two, when worded nicely, will be appreciated.
- Setup reminders for yourself when you hear things in meetings or hallways that may be important later.
- After meetings, follow up with an email or conversation that says, “OK, pastor, what I think I heard you say in there that I can start working on is 1, 2, 3. Correct?”
- Leaders: Invite your communications directors to meetings so they can do their jobs and make yours easier.
- Keep all notes and tasks in one central place that everyone can access what they need to. Whether it’s Monday, Asana, Trello, Slack, or some combo, make sure everyone knows the system and sticks to it. Consistency is key.
- Make everything as simple as possible.
- It will feel like hand-holding to you but remind, remind, remind. Do it nicely and it will be appreciated.
- Limit who can hit “Reply All” to the whole staff.
- Always convey love and care before details, especially in email or text form.
If you have ideas for communication among staff, leadership, or even volunteers, drop those comments below, and let’s talk!