It Matters How We Communicate: Choosing Between Paper, Electronic and Social Media to Connect with Congregants

Presenters:

  • Kathy Brutinel — First UU Church, Rochester, Minnesota
  • Kevin Watson — First Unitarian Society, Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Chris White — UU Fellowship, Ames, Iowa
  • Ben Stallings — Prairie Star District staff

Location:

It Matters What We Believe
Annual Conference 2011

Des Moines, Iowa
by Prairie Star District

April 8-10, 2011

Resources:

Description:

This workshop will be a panel discussion about how churches have engaged their congregations through newsletters, orders of service, websites, electronic mailings, Twitter and Facebook. What options did they consider? What works and what is problematic? How much volunteer and staff time is involved? Come and hear how other churches are dealing with how to communicate cheaply and effectively.

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It Matters How We Communicate

Post 22 of 40 of the Humanist Lent Writing Project

This weekend is the Prairie Star District of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Annual Conference in Ames, IA. I will be part of a panel called It Matters How We Communicate and speaking about my experience as a Communications Coordinator for a large UU church.

I’m excited to hear the questions and have some conversations about how to do communications in a rapidly changing environment. The information I plan to share goes beyond churches, I tend to focus on nonprofit organizations in my freelance life through www.AidanWebServices.com and I feel these tips work well for smaller organizations or businesses.

Website Advice:

  • Make it easily updated and don’t invest in a design for a lifetime, invest with a plan that it will need to be done again in 3-5 years (closer to 3 if you want to stay current).
  • I strongly recommend using WordPress.com or WordPress.org. This platform allows you to get a site up quickly, has a professional look and feel, and is easily updated by people without knowledge of html or programming languages. WordPress.com is easier to do, WordPress.org gives you more options and control.
  • Use Google Analytics (more on this below).

Social Media:

  • Facebook first, then the rest. If you are going to do social media and don’t know where to start, Facebook has the largest audience and the most functionality. It will change at the whim of Facebook but it will change for everyone.
  • Make a Page, not a Group.
  • Get a short URL for your Page (i.e. facebook.com/yourorgname). You can’t change it, so think about it first.
  • Once you start it, keep content going up there at least weekly.

Digital Communications:

  • Less is more. In  both design and content, I tend towards as simple as possible. If you need to have lots of text in a digital newsletter, try having a lead sentence or two and a link to the whole story on your website or blog.
  • Email Newsletters: www.constantcontact.com or www.mailchimp.com. They are simple to use, affordable, and you get a nice end product with the ability to track open rates and clicks.
  • DON’T BCC your email list to send out your newsletter. This leads to your organization being labeled as spammers and is difficult to fix (I know, it happened to an org I worked with once).

Print Communications:

  • Less is more, less is more, less is more. Sunday Bulletins, Print Newsletters, Brochures. All of these should be a concise as possible. Just a bit about a select few programs happening, stories of success, and then how to find out more online. Or better yet, how to get in touch with a real person to have a conversation.

Office IT:

  • Google Apps (www.google.com/apps). You can have email set up to @yoursite.org, along with google’s powerful suite of tools (docs, calendar, chat, and more) for free. Your whole organization can be running them anywhere they have an internet connect.
  • Cloud File Storage. If at all possible ditch the office file server for www.dropbox.com or www.box.net. This is an easy way to keep your files backed up, shareable with colleagues, AND accessible form multiple and computer with internet access. Also copies of the files stay on your computer as well so if you don’t have internet access you can make changes and they will sync when you get online again.
  • Analytics. Track what is happening with your communications. With your email newsletters and facebook page you can easily track how many people open, click, or “like” your organization.
  • Google Analytics. Also free, a GREAT product for accurately tracking visits and activity on your website.

These are my starting points, I also plan to talk about Branding and why I think it is important even for small nonprofits and I’m sure individual questions will take me in other directions as well.

Other ideas? Feel free to add on in the comments!

No More Glenn Beck: Will Young People Even Notice?

Post 21 of 40 of the Humanist Lent Writing Project

Glenn Beck is done? No Way! Now I don’t think it is a surprise that as a very Liberal person I’m not a Glenn Beck fan, but then I was never meant to be part of his fan base. The interesting thing here is I’ve long ago let his brand of craziness and attention getting fade into the background, like a child throwing a tantrum. The thing I didn’t consider was that his viewers would as well. Joanna Brooks offers a really great post about this.

As a Millennial and someone who lives and works online none of the major news networks can count me as a loyal viewer. I get my news through Minnesota Public Radio, twitter, blog feeds, facebook links, podcasts, emails from friends, and email newsletters. My home television is used to watch BluRays, Hulu Plus, and Netflix. We don’t pay for cable television but do pay for cable internet. I wonder how many of my peers and those younger than me are in a similar place?While I understand that the major news networks still hold incredible sway and have millions of viewers, for how much longer can will that be true?

I’m happy that my parent’s and grandparent’s generation won’t be bombarded with rants involving tear-streaked chalk boards. After I read of Beck’s potential departure I was surprised but elated, then I googled to see if other news sources were saying the same thing (here is a MSNBC article about his leaving and a hilarious Huffington Post piece with possible Beck replacements), finally I thought to myself: wait a minute… when was the last time I saw Glenn Beck that wasn’t on The Colbert Report or The Daily Show?

So at the end of the day my real take away from this news is how little it really impacts my daily life and how wonderful it is that those people in the world I disagree with on so much and I have a new commonality: neither of us cares what Glenn Beck has to say.