I’ve been asked a lot lately about the role of a communications person in a church and actually haven’t found much out there to define what the role of communications is in the church, and to explain why the role of a communications person is important.
So, I decided to take a stab at it and write my thoughts.
This will be the first in a series of posts where I’ll plead my case for why churches need communications people, what they should be doing, and why it’s important.
Most people, when I tell them what I do, have no idea why a church needs a communications person. The most common reply I usually get is, “oh, so does that mean you make the bulletins or something?”
Well, while that is something I do… I honestly do a lot more. The role of church communications is changing… it’s no longer about a church secretary typing announcements into a pre-printed bulletin shell. Church communications now involves a lot of planning, strategy and people who are focused on directing the different communications channels of a church.
So let’s get down to the basics, what is a “Director of Communications” anyway?
Wikipedia defines a director of communications in the corporate world as being:
a position in the private and public sectors. A director of communications is responsible for managing and directing an organization’s internal and external communications. She or he supervises public relations staff, creates communication strategies, and serves as the key spokesperson and media contact for the organization.
The director of communications usually reports directly to the chief executive officer (CEO) of the organization, and advises the board of directors on all communications work.
In an organization, the director of communications directs the Communications Department, sometimes called a Public Affairs Department. The director of communications may be assisted by a deputy director, clerical staff, and communications specialists and public affairs officers.
Or, to make it more “churchy”…
The director of communications is responsible for managing and directing a church’s internal and external communications. They work to create communication strategies and (depending on their role or level of authority) serve as the key spokesperson and media contact for the organization.
The director of communications typically reports to an executive pastor and/or lead pastor and advices the board of Elders/Decaons on all communications work.
The director of communications handles all messaging in the church outside of the Sunday morning messages and works to built teams to support all facets of church communications (print, media, web, etc.).
Communications directors should be champions of the church’s vision, being a key person involved in how it’s messaged and communicated across different mediums.
While most may sit lower on the “chain of command” in the leadership structure, I’m absolutely convinced in order for them to be empowered to do their job effectively, they need to be close to the lead visionaries of the church and close to important conversations where vision is communicated. I really believe it’s key for them to be involved in upper level conversations and be “in the know” about what’s going on.
While their day-to-day routines may vary by church, size of staff, etc their essential functions will be to (in Kem Meyer’s words) oversee anything people read, touch, or click beyond the platform.
- Read would include any written messages communicated from or about the church… be it in print or electronic form.
- Touch would include a weekly bulletin, newsletter, brochures, mass mailings/postcards, or anything else that represents the church or has the church logo on it, in print form.
- Click would relate to any form of web or email based technology, as well as new social networking tools like Twitter, Facebook, etc.
Directors of communications should be able to communicate clearly and succinctly, be passionate about the churches they are serving, and be up with what’s new in the world of technology. More than likely they read blogs, they should know who Seth Godin is, they understand the concept of Twitter and Twitter themselves, they either have a Blackberry or iPhone, and probably have a mild case of ADD.
Their day-to-day functions might look different depending on the size of their church staff… some do graphic design, others to video, sound or lighting. Some are techie geeks, others just have a great eye for design. Some are PC. The cool ones are Mac.
But to sum it up, I’d say that someone who serves as a director of communications is really just a brand advocate.
Every church has a brand and by a brand I don’t mean a logo.
In the book The Brand Gap, Marty Neumeier describes a brand as “a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or company.”
In other words, “a brand is not what YOU say it is It’s what THEY say it is.”
Successful church communicators are attuned to the pulse of their church and the culture outside of the church and strategize ways to built bridges from their community to the church and helps people connect the dots to take their next steps toward Christ once they are there.
They are passionate about the church’s vision and care about how it translates to people inside and outside of the church. They defend it. They design it. They care about it. It keeps them awake at night and is a reason for them to get out of bed in the morning.
And now, more than ever, it’s absolutely critical to have people in a position of leadership who are listening to what your church is saying, who are attuned to what other people inside and outside of the church are thinking and feeling, and who can create channels of communication to connect the two.
More to come… what do you think so far? Agree? Disagree? Discuss…