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What online church can teach IC

This year has caused many organisations to change the way they communicate.

We’ve had to pause some of our usual channels such as digital signage, printed publications and in-person Town Halls. We’ve increased our use of digital channels and encouraged leaders to be virtually visible.

For the church, it has caused a complete re-think around the globe.

As a family, we now watch a live-stream of our local church online and it’s become an important part of our Sunday routine.

My brother, Rev Mat Allen, is an ordained priest in the Church of England and Director of Studies at a theological college. We regularly compare notes and marvel at the similarities of our very different worlds. One day we will publish something together, I’m sure.

Today I have a guest post for you from another Matt, the marvellous Matthew Batten from the Church in Wales. I watched Matt share his thoughts via Sequel Group’s recent webinar and invited him to share his story with you.

He has written for the All Things IC blog to reveal what he’s learnt this year. You can find Matt online via Twitter @CommsGuyMatt.

I’m curious to know what changes you’ve had to make in your company this year from an IC perspective.

What have you revised due to Coronavirus? Feel free to comment below or find me on Twitter @AllThingsIC.

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Here’s Matt…

What online church can teach IC

18 months ago I joined the Church in Wales as Director of Communications and Engagement at the Diocese of Llandaff.

I honestly thought that internal comms would take a backseat to PR… how wrong I was!

Internal comms is possibly the most important part of my job, and even more so when churches closed during lockdown.

It happened just before Holy Week and Easter – the holiest – and busiest – time in the church calendar. It was also a devastating blow to clergy who dedicate their lives to serving Christ and their community. Overnight their role completely changed and they were forced to rethink how to do church – and quickly too.

I saw my role – as a then team of one – as serving the people who serve our community.

My emergency-Covid-comms-strategy was focused on two things: employee advocacy and providing our people with the tools and support they needed.

And this is what I learned

1. Focus on the needs of your people

What was the one question on every cleric’s mind when lockdown was announced?

What on earth is online church and how do we do it on a shoestring?

Along with sharing guidance from the Welsh Government and Church in Wales, my main priority was answering this one question.

To begin with it was just me writing blog posts about live streaming services and how to guides for hosting church meetings on Zoom. We also curated online church guides from the wonderful church comms community and shared webinars, podcasts and checklists to upskill our people.

My top priority was to share information that made their lives easier and enabled them to do the job they were called to do – minister to their community. Nothing else mattered because ministry is our core business.

We now have a large number of people who are experts in online church. They do it day in day out and continually seek new and innovative ways to engage with their community. I’m incredibly proud of what they have achieved.

Months later all I do now is signpost to our online church experts and ask them to write the blogs for us.

Tip

Find out what is keeping your people awake at night and identify what you can do to make their lives easier. And never stray too far from your core business.

2. Know your channels

Introducing Llandaff Matter, our weekly email, is probably the most effective thing I’ve done since starting this job.

By focusing the content on the needs of our audience, it has become an indispensable channel for need-to-know information. All killer, no filler.

During lockdown it became an even more important channel for reaching those who were self-isolating.

We discovered that clergy would copy and paste sections of Llandaff Matters into their own newsletters then print them and post them to those who were not online.

A perfect example of digital and print working well together.

Email is pretty old school but why mess with a classic? We use Microsoft Sway to create the newsletter and send out the link with a content summary via good ol’ email. It goes out Friday lunch time like clockwork. Sway allows you to print if off as a PDF so again there’s a print option if required.

Tip

Identify the channels that have maximum impact and make it easy to access information. And don’t shy away from humble email. It actually does work as a comms channel as long as the content is written for your audience.

3. Don’t contribute to the noise

We all know that measurement is important – but during the sheer craziness of church comms during lockdown, data helped me sleep at night.

I was spending time on Canva creating eye catching social media posts of motivational Biblical quotes. I was well proud of my design skills (and that Masters in Theology was being put to good use). Anyway, all the trendy churches do this. Bound to be good for us too.

Nope.

When I looked at data, no one was sharing them. They just sat there looking pretty.

I tried posting at different times but still no improvement. Basically, they added no value. They were after all pretty images with no call to action. They just added to the noise and my workload.

So I scrapped it and refocused on delivering content that truly added value to our audience.

Tip

Look at your measurements and ask yourself, is your content adding value to your audience? If it’s not then stop. Dedicate your time to something that will benefit you and your audience.

4. Employee advocacy matters

The biggest lesson I’ve learned through all of this is simply that advocacy is essential.

Clergy and volunteers share the heck out of our content! They live in every town and village and are well connected with the community they serve. One share from them on Facebook is often seen by far more people than we could reach on our own.

We share online church events, public health guidance and first hand accounts of Christian faith in action. By which I mean people who are motivated by their faith to help others, whether that’s volunteering at a food bank or running projects to tackle food poverty.

It’s those stories that are then shared on local social media news feeds and read by people in need who then find support they need.

As one of the largest providers of voluntary services in the area, embracing employee advocacy isn’t simply a comms tactic; it’s a lifeline to those who need us the most.

Make employee advocacy a part of your comms strategy. It’s far too important to ignore.

Thanks for reading.

Post author: Matt Batten.

Thank you Matt, I loved your honesty about Canva!

When I listened to his conversation the other day, I was struck by the fact their digital strategy has been accelerated by eight months due to Coronavirus. Great work!

 

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I hope you have a great week.

Thank you for stopping by.

Rachel.

First published on the All Things IC blog 21 September 2020.

Comments

  1. Mike Klein says:

    Fantastic piece by one of the gems of the business. While a very practical read, there are also gems about the places where faith, action and strategy all interconnect. Would like to see more from Matt and more from other branches of the religious tree.

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