Agile Marketing & Communications

It’s hard to juggle planning against the pressures of unplanned work due to change. As a full-time communicator, I’ve found myself trying to balance the organizational needs of planning against the realities of responding to change in a timely fashion, only to realize that I seemingly could not find a way to do both well. Until now. Over the years, I’ve worked with and around software developers and have come to first appreciate and then come to study and use their secret to delivering code quickly and adapting just as fast to new features and bug fixes. A very brief recap of they way things used to be versus how they are now in project planning: Software used to be fully considered, mapped out, documented and planned for a final finished release. This method, called Waterfall, was to do all of the pre-planning and documentation for everything the software would need to do in one, very large and complex project plan, complete with Gantt charts to estimate work over months and even years. Software-as-a-Service (software you use online, in an app, or in a browser, most frequently) changed the need for more iterative software changes that responded to demands and needs of users as quickly as possible – sometimes days or weeks. Agile is a belief that a collaborate team working in short durations together can deliver more often and change more rapidly. Scrum is a methodology for applying Agile that plans all work in chunks (2 to 4 weeks is common) and follows ‘ceremonies’ that organize the work during. Kanban is an Agile method that visualizes work (a...

Just Enough, Just in Time

We have more data than we could realistically organize, tag, filter, or view. The shift from the Information Age to the Connection Age is at hand, where our networks have proliferated to the point where we suffer from a glut of input delivered at an ever-increasing pace. We are now forced to choose which pieces of the data we want to view. From financial giving data to weekend attendance reporting to small group and volunteer involvement data, and on through the endless emails on our mobile devices about our kid’s recitals, PTA meetings, Amazon specials, and the obscene amount of pure email spam, each of us must choose how much input we are willing to actually use. So, how do you choose? And how are you communicating those choices? We’ve likely all been taught the Eisenhower Matrix (a.k.a. the Priority Matrix) below. We know that things which are truly urgent are few, but things that are important are in  volume, but we often still act like others need to respond to our stuff as urgent. This kind of e-bullying eschews our real priorities and makes our priorities someone else’s emergencies. As a guy who deals with communications as a large part of my job, I see more than a few “urgent” emails subject lines. Sometimes, others use the more subtle approach of urgent synonyms within their emails (“I have a pressing need” or “this is a high-priority project” or “we need to get to this ASAP”). When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. To quote Bob Newhart: “Stop it!” We’re all busy…and that’s part of the problem. Are...

Why People Hate Most of Your Church Communications

The greatest message ever shared. The most important person in all of history. The most helpful resources available. Yeah, the church has all of that and should be excited about helping people find freedom and live changed lives. But, more information from your local church isn’t helping. We’re inundated with information. We’re deluged by data. What we don’t need to know is how much more stuff your church has to offer. If anything, we need less. A. Lot. Less. Less isn’t zero, but when you start with zero as the assumed baseline of what must be communicated, it is a helpful re-orientation towards re-imagining what your church should be communicating. What Churches Over-communicate If I started by listing the Top 10 things churches over-communicate, it would be a list missing the other 90 Top Things. Seriously, the issue is not the information; it’s the thinking that assumes we need more information. Ask this question of a random sampling of church staff: “What is the purpose of our church communications?” You will likely hear their personal ministry/department preferences, or about getting people involved in a particular event or activity, or something along the lines of living out the Great Commission. Sadly, none of these will help make the most important connection your audience really needs because a broadcasted message isn’t going to replace a personal connection. Sure, you might promote something that provides the opportunity for people to get connected (good!), but unless you happen to be able to reach the right person at the right time in the right way, the connection you’re offering to make will not be acted upon. When...

The Best of ChurchLeaders.com

Sharing my thoughts here on my blog is a joy; but having my ideas, experiences, and stories shared with hundreds of thousands of pastors is a privilege. Thanks to the leadership of  Outreach Magazine and ChurchLeaders.com for allowing me to speak with their audiences. I had a featured column (Plugged In:) for several years in Outreach Magazine and for over 5 years have shared even more content via their amazing pastoral resource site, ChurchLeaders. Here is my personal “Best Of” list of posts on ChurchLeaders.com around three subjects near to my heart: Volunteers, Church Staff, and Communications.   VOLUNTEERS & TEAM ARTICLES 7 Ways to Effectively Lead Volunteers The Four Keys of Potent Volunteer Teams Is it OK to Fire Volunteers? Dealing with a Mistake the Right Way Tech Arts Volunteer Burnout Church Hospitality: On Purpose   COMMUNICATIONS ARTICLES 3 Things Church Communications Can Learn From the Drive-Thru Making Your Church Website Mobile Friendly How to Make Your Church E-mails Work The True Power of Social Media Social Media 101   CHURCH STAFF ARTICLES You Deserve a Higher Wage The Best Ways to Share Information When Your Ministry Needs Get Bigger Balancing Tradition and Innovation   If these articles resonate with you, it would be an honor to speak with your church leaders and staff. Contact me via the form below. Name(required) Email(required) Your Role/Title(required) Church Name(required) How can I help your church?(required)...

Making Your Church Website Mobile Friendly

*Latest update: June 2014 It’s hard to go anywhere (including church) where people are not pulling out their phones for more than calls. We’re clearly a mobile culture with habits now firmly entrenched in anytime, anywhere access. Churches must, at a minimum, make a mobile version of their websites for these small screens. For those pastors wanting some stats to back this up, it’s helpful to note the following: 94% of smartphone users have searched for local info – including your church. *[1] 67% (and climbing) of mobile users are now smartphone users (159.8 million people in the U.S. own smartphones as of October 2013). *[4] 66% of smartphone users visited an organization in person after viewing a website. *[1] 90% of smartphone users acted within 24 hours of viewing the website. *[1] 73% of mobile searches trigger additional actions, such as continued research (36%) and in-person visits (25%) *[2] 57% of mobile users won’t recommend an organization based on a poorly designed mobile site. *[1] 37% of all digital media time is spent on mobile *[3] But where to start? Pastor’s don’t need to bother trying to keep up with the technology, but they do need to empower their staff/volunteer web team to ensure their church websites are mobile friendly. 6 quick checks any pastor can do: 1) Does the website load fast? Mobile phones are not always on Wi-Fi, so under 3 seconds load time is the goal. 2) Is the text big enough to read without zooming? The only acceptable answer is “yes”. 3) Is navigation simple and obvious? Less is more with only a few, obvious choices for most mobile websites....

Church Communication Lessons from Fast Food Drive-thru

Churches and drive-thru fast food restaurants seem to have little to no comparative value, until you look at the common denominator of both: the customer (people). Of course, I’m not saying the local church is selling anything to people, but I am provoking a perspective that says the people who are customers of a fast-food chain are the same people who are attending our churches. Lesson #1 – Minimum information, Maximum call-to-action Unless you order a meal or item as-is from any fast-food drive up, there’s a high likelihood that your order will be incorrect. Likewise, unless you create a valuable call-to-action that is framed around the default expectations of your members and attendees, there’s a high likelihood that people won’t get involved. My personal experience has taught me that if I want a burger with only a couple of things on it, it’s easier to say “plain, but add lettuce and pickles,” than to tell them what I do not want on my burger. The reason is simple: there’s a button for “plain” and a button for “add”. This is much easier on the fast food employee than making them put in the regular order, then start subtracting what I don’t want and then finally adding something I do want. Frankly, it confuses them. Similarly, there’s great simplicity in the truth that “less is more.” Rather than giving all the details at once about a service, activity, or event, and then listing all of the unique qualifiers and exceptions, it’s much more effective to summate the big idea with a simple qualifier statement and an easy to respond/act/sign-up immediately...