Tips & Tricks For Managing Communications

Tips & Tricks For Managing Communications

April 23, 2012 by

“I’m just so afraid something’s going to fall through the cracks.” This statement—likely typed with a furrowed brow and heavy sigh—closed out an email I recently received from a newbie communications director. We’ve all been there, haven’t we? The moving parts of the church communications machine are innumerable, and our pastors and ministry leaders are counting on us to keep it all running smoothly.

“But how?” was the newbie’s cry. “How in the world am I supposed to keep track of who asked me to say what and when?”

If you’re in that spot, perhaps the following tips and tricks will help quell your panic.

Give Your Brain a Break
Maybe you have a fantastic memory and maybe you’re actually great at keeping all those details straight your head. But why? Clogging your brain with administrative details can squelch creativity, and my guess is that you’ve forgotten something a time or two. You need a system—even if you don’t think you do. Get all that stuff out of your head and on paper (virtual or otherwise).

Develop some sort of worksheet to help you think through your promotional plan. I keep a simple Excel document (download the sample promotion worksheet PDF) for this purpose. In each space on the grid, I plug in the message I want to communicate through each channel each week. This provides me with a visual snapshot of my promotional strategy for an event, making it easy to see if I’m offering a nice, even stream of information.

Bonus benefit: You can share a copy of this worksheet with the ministry or event leader. Having a written plan communicates that you care about their stuff and you’re taking it seriously. That’s a big deal.

Don’t Lose Sight of the Forest for the Trees
Having a strategy in place for each event is important, but so is having a good understanding of overall messaging through all channels at any given time. Chuck Scoggins uses a monthly communication digest/summary (download the sample communication plan PDF) for that purpose.

Outlook, iCal and Basecamp. Oh My!
Use a technology with which you’re familiar and comfy, even if it feels rudimentary and overly simplistic. If sticky notes on a white board are your thing, go for it. If you’re more of a Basecamp person, do that instead. Mike Loomis recommends Outlook recurring calendar appointments, and Kevin Hendricks is a fan of Excel spreadsheets for simple tracking.

For bulletin scheduling, I find Outlook folders to be extraordinarily helpful. I have a folder called Bulletin, and inside that I have dated folders for each week. Any time I receive a request from a ministry leader for a bulletin blurb, I file his or her email in the appropriate folder. If someone asks me for a spot several weeks in advance, I create a folder for the appropriate date and file the email in there. If I’m asked in person, or if I just happen to know of something that needs to be communicated, I send myself an email with the info… and then file it. (See the theme? Give your brain a break!) As I build the bulletin each week, I either delete the messages as I write the blurbs or, if they’re appropriate for promotion across multiple weeks, I simply move the message to the next appropriate date. And remember the Promotion Worksheet I mentioned? I email a screen capture of that to myself and file it in the first applicable bulletin folder. And again, when I finish the bulletin each week, I delete the email or file it under the next applicable date.

Keeping Your Website Current
Create a spreadsheet to track your website updates (download the sample web updates PDF). Each time you put something up on the site, create an entry showing when to remove it. Open the sheet every morning, make the updates required, and move on with your day with the lovely feeling that results from having a current website. And yes, you could do this with Outlook reminders instead.

Listen. And Take the Initiative.
Last-minute promotional requests are a frustrating reality in church communications world. Ministry leaders are working their tails off getting ready for their event, class, or group… not necessarily thinking through the pre-work, like promoting the thing to begin with. For that reason, Steve Fogg recommends keeping your ear to the ground. If you hear rumblings about an event, initiate a conversation about promotional options. Steve also makes a request sheet available to his ministry leaders that asks questions to help them think through what they’re really looking to communicate and how they want people to respond.

Of course, this is just a handful of ideas—among a gazillion possibilities. How do you keep all the balls in the air?

Photo by camknows
Post By:

Kelley Hartnett

Kelley Hartnett spent more than a decade working in established churches and helping to launch new ones. She recently launched Tall Tree Collective, which helps nonprofits craft messages that inspire people to get behind their cause. Kelley formerly served as the membership director for our Courageous Storytellers Membership Site and is the author of You've Got This: A Pep Talk for Church Communicators.
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9 Responses to “Tips & Tricks For Managing Communications”

  • David Heys
    April 23, 2012

    We use a Google Docs spreadsheet to cover our planning for the year ahead. We’ve only recently started using this and so far it has helped a lot as the guys on the creative team can visualise what’s coming up.

    Live sheet is here:

    David Heys

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    • Kelley
      April 23, 2012

      Thanks for sharing your doc, David! Good stuff!

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  • Steph
    May 2, 2012

    What a great article! Thanks for sharing. I’ve been in church communication for 4 years, and it’s a struggle to keep the balls in the air.

    Not only do promotion requests happen last minute, many times they are not requested at all. Unfortunately, they are still expecting their event to be promoted. Our team has been working hard to cultivate a better communication system where information is shared.

    I’ve tried the worksheets with no success. Either folks do not use them or arrive incomplete.

    I appreciate your suggestion with the Outlook Calendar. I’m going to implement that this month.

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    • Kelley
      May 5, 2012

      You’re quite welcome, Steph. Just for clarification, I actually complete those worksheets myself. I, too, found that asking ministry leaders to complete promotional request worksheets was troublesome: either they came back incomplete, as you mentioned, or I found myself having to say “no” when they asked for everything.

      Internal communication among team members seems to be a struggle for a lot of churches. That’s why Steve’s “keep your ear to the ground” thing is so important. And those last-minute requests are terribly frustrating. I tried to set expectations up front–e.g., “Bulletin requests are due by Monday at noon; if you request after that I’ll try my best, but I can’t promise anything.” In certain seasons, that worked okay. In other seasons? Not so much. Still, setting those expectations up front and being as consistent as possible can help. I’d love to hear more about the system your team is developing!

      Good luck with the Outlook system. Hope it’s helpful for you. :) KH

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  • Chris Young
    May 3, 2012

    Thanks for sharing your planning document David!

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  • Warner
    May 4, 2012

    Steph, keeping those lines of communication open is very difficult. We try to get our church to keep updated on facebook and we make sure we get all of the church bulletins as a way to atleast understand a little bit about what’s going on in their world. I haevn’t ever tried the google docs approach though, I’ll see what we can do to give it a shot!

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  • Steve
    May 17, 2012

    It’s great to see what other churches are doing – thanks for sharing these ideas.

    Following on from this post, I put together a communications plan for my church –

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    • Kelley
      May 17, 2012

      You betcha, Steve! And thanks for sharing your work, too.

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  • David Powers
    May 18, 2012

    We use an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of what we need to publicize, where and when. We keep it on our website:, although that page is not linked from the homepage. We give the link to our staff and the leaders of ministry teams so they can check on the publicity schedule for their stuff. Also on that page, we provide some resources about writing and photography for those who help with our online magazine. Seems to be working for us.

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