If you manage a communications team, it is likely that many on your staff see you as the person who can help them “promote” their events. You’re just a megaphone wearing a chef’s hat, throwing all your announcement spaghetti against the wall until something sticks.
But that’s not you.
You have been given jurisdiction over your main church communication channels. You are the gatekeeper! You’re the key-master! You…have to decide what gets promoted where. Which means that every week, you’ll have a new set of friends and a new set of frienemies.
Instead of guessing or letting the tyranny of the urgent rule your communication stream, let’s set up a system to help you decide how things get promoted that will have you crying promotional tiers of joy!
Disclaimer: Everyone will hate this when you try to implement it. Sorry. But without it, you’ll burn out fast, so hang in there until it becomes common knowledge and practice. Because if I know anything about communications, I know this:
If everything is important, then nothing is important.
You have to designate promotional tiers or your audience will start to tune you out everywhere. So, let’s get started.
Set up Your Promotional Scope
A good starting point is to have three tiers or levels. I like to set Tier 1 as the biggest push and Tier 3 as the smallest push. So let’s define the parameters that determine where an event or ministry falls in the tier system. These are my examples, so feel free to set your own standards.
- Affects at least 80% of adults in the church
- Promotes a church-wide initiative
- Is deemed central to the mission and vision of the church in a specific way
- Affects a large section of the church, but not 80%. More like 40-60%.
- Points people to a Tier 1 ministry
- Is a specific departmental event/seasonal event
- Affects a niche of the church
- Supports a Tier 2 ministry
- Can be adequately promoted with an email to interested people
When you get these criteria set, then list out all of your ministries, groups, and events that you have all year long and give them a Tier 1, 2, or 3 designation. Don’t do this in a vacuum either, so get a wise person to speak into this (coughcoughyourpastororbosscoughcough)
Go ahead and prepare yourself for the resistance on this ranking system. Everyone is going to tell you that whatever event they want to promote is “the biggest thing they do every year” or “lots of people come to this event.” Typically, they aren’t thinking about the big picture. Big to a department might mean small in the scope of the whole church.
So, get data. The reason Tier 1 has to be both large and vision-centric is because attendance doesn’t always equal importance. You might have a thousand people come to your women’s banquet, but that may not be central to your vision enough to warrant a full-court press on the promotional materials. You need to be able to give a reason why you’re saying “no” to some things and redirecting them to other promotional options.
Decide how the Promotion is Championed
Now that you can identify different levels of promotion for events and ministries, it’s time to define your relationships! You’re going to answer the question “Who will be responsible for which promotional decisions?”
I recommend the following plan:
Communications department drives the promotion with Executive Leadership Team member(s) such as senior pastor, executive pastor, etc.
Joint effort. Communications drives the conversations and crafts promotions in partnership with the ministry leader.
Stakeholder. Communications works in supporting role with coaching and resources.
It’s helpful for stakeholders in the event to know what kind of materials and aid they can expect from the communications department. It also lets them know clearly what you will be deciding and what they can decide.
For a Tier 1 event, the communications department needs to drive the conversation with those at the highest authority levels. But for a Tier 3 ministry, communications provides support and guidelines, but the stakeholder is responsible for getting the word out (email is your friend).
The odd duck is the Tier 2. It’s a little bit of a gray area and may be tough to navigate. This is where all those people skills everyone’s been telling you to get come into play! There is always a little wiggle room here and it can become a game of poker, but maintaining relationships with people like I lined out in this blog will help you navigate Tier 2 well.
Detail the Deliverables
Now that you have your criteria for promotional Tiers and have clearly defined the relationships, it’s time to reveal what kinds of deliverables (stuff you make for them) are available at each Tier.
Make a list of all the things you can create or do to help them promote and then assign those items to a Tier. You need to have a reason for why a Tier 3 isn’t going to make it into your video announcements or get a Facebook ad, but a Tier 2 might. Trust me, people will want to know how you decided that.
It’s also ok to double up and offer print on Tier 1 & 2 and not 3, or whatever you think is best for your context. The main point is to make sure that it is clear.
Clear wins the day. Even if it makes people mad at first, be patient, gracious, and kind and they’ll come around. Think about why they might get mad: you’re potentially telling them that their event/ministry/project isn’t as important to the church as they thought it was.That’s hard to take when you’re so emotionally and personally invested in ministry.
Which leads me to the last, but probably most important piece of advice I can give you about this:
Don’t do ANY of this unless your bosses and leadership are on board with it.
If you create a system and your boss hates it, you will have wasted a lot of time and energy for nothing. Go ahead and have the conversations early and even ask him or her to weigh in. The pastor especially needs to be part of the driving force behind this or it will end up tilting your promotional materials away from what he cares about most. That’s a bad move.
There’s always the chance he’ll just say everything’s important and he doesn’t want you to do this at all. If that’s the case, well, that’s a different blog.