With the increasing fragmentation of our culture, your communication strategy is more important than ever before. The COVID-19 pandemic moved much of our interaction into the digital space. What could once have been written off as an added benefit has become an essential component of the life of our organizations. Whatever your business is, whoever your audience is, learning to communicate with them effectively is critical to your success.
This reality is often overlooked in the church. Historically, churches are notoriously slow to change and, for the vast majority of our history, our focus has been on in-person interactions. For many, the shift to digital connection has been slow, difficult, or non-existent. Though VOUS is a young church—we launched weekly services in 2015—we have been on an ongoing journey to learn the latest and best practices, while staying true to the core of our mission and vision. Of course, the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Innovation simply provides us with new ways to fulfill the timeless mission of sharing the gospel of Jesus with the world.
Whether you are just getting started with digital communications or more experienced, here are a few lessons our team has been learning in this area lately.
1. Get Ahead of Content
At VOUS, we have a lot of communication going out each week. If we don’t stay on top of it, things can get very stressful very quickly. That’s why we’ve worked to develop a rhythm of when we create content, as well as clarity around who is responsible for what. Some emails come from our Creative Department, while others are owned by the departments to whom they are most relevant. Content intended for our entire database has stricter standards and protocols, while content intended for smaller audiences requires less eyes and fewer steps along the way.
If we have one word of encouragement for you on this topic it is this: Don’t work week to week! Build out a content calendar and work ahead. Lean on your church calendar to provide direction for where you’re going. Don’t wait for a request to come in, anticipate the need and get out in front of it. Currently, our communications team works to generate email content in one-month batches. Not only does that rhythm help alleviate stress and manage the workload, it provides us with much-needed margin to develop creative concepts and identify big-picture trends.
2. Customize For Your Audience
Another key to effective email communication is to customize for your audience. We don’t speak to everyone in our lives in the same way. Why would we speak to everyone in our churches, organizations, or audiences in the same way? People have different needs, desires, and interests. The more you can shape your content to align with their unique characteristics, the more your communication will connect. Send generic, irrelevant information to people and you will lose their attention quickly.
Two essential components here are targeting and timing. You can’t customize for your audience if you don’t know who they are. Segmenting your database will help you to know how to communicate with them. When you know who you’re talking to, you can discern which content is most relevant to them. Once you know what you want to say and who you want to say it to, you need to determine the best time to deliver your message. For example, here are the four emails that go out weekly at VOUS, along with their scheduled times and intended audiences:
All-Church Email — Monday, 8:00am / Church Database
Leadership With Rich — Tuesday, 6:00am / Leadership Segment
VOUS Friends & Family — Thursday, 8:00am / F&F Segment
All-Church Email — Friday, 8:00am / Church Database
3. Give Them Something They Value
Lastly, before you ask them for something, give them something. Provide a helpful hack. Offer an interesting insight. Give them something they value. Most, if not all, of our communication has an ask attached to it. Attend this event. Click on this link. Purchase this product. Before you ask, add. Add value to the people you’re reaching. Before you make a withdrawal, make a deposit.
People don’t mind the ask. They are just much more likely to engage with you if you have first engaged with them. Offering something of value to your audience communicates that you understand them and you care for them. You see their need and you want to do what you can to meet it. Once they know that, they’ll want to know more.