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Communication audit syncs everything together

SUMMARY: Local church communicators often create marketing materials based on a specific need or request. They create a brochure here, produce a newsletter there or develop a website.

Imagine what would happen if you created all of your congregation's communications resources to work together. You would maximize efforts and the value of each communications vehicle. A communications audit will enable you to see what works for your local church.

This process enables you to assess what you have, what you want and how to get there.

First, create a timeline for accomplishing each step of the audit. Without a timeframe to complete the work, chances are the communications audit will go to the bottom of your to-do list and remain there until it is forgotten.

Second, create your congregation's communications mission statement. If the church already has a marketing plan, derive the mission statement from it.

Third, get samples of every communications piece or vehicle used in the past six months or year. Ask all church staff and groups to share their print and electronic communications pieces so you include everything. Remember that even tools like voice mail are important communications vehicles. Get the script or recording. Then follow these five steps:

  1. Ask.

    How does your congregation communicate with its audiences? Create a table with multiple columns for type, title, purpose, audience, distribution mechanism, frequency, readership count and budget. This table gives you a critical overview to serve as the basis for your analysis.

    Identify what works. Which communications vehicles deliver the information the intended audience wants or needs? Determine why certain communications vehicles do not get the desired response.

    Assess where the church is, where it wants to be in the next year, in three years and in five years. Refer to the congregation's strategic marketing plan for guidance.
  2. Analyze.

    Take the completed table of the church's communications and evaluate how current communications fit with the church's strategic marketing plan. Do they match?

    Explore how other churches or community programs communicate. Learn what others are doing through observation in your community and online searches for certain topics or audiences.

    Interview or survey electronically your target audiences. Include those who receive the communications vehicles as well as those who do not. See if the people who receive the newsletter, for example, actually read it. Exactly what do they read? Discover what they would like to see in the newsletter. Learn where people who do not receive your communications go for the information you provide. What stops them from coming to you?

  3. Strategize.

    Use the results of your analysis to create a communications plan that matches your congregation's goals and gives your target audiences what they want and need. This will take time. Identify opportunities for synergies. For example, the analysis may reveal that the newsletter works well to further the church's marketing plan and meets readers' needs and wants. You'll plan to continue the newsletter—but don't stop there. How can you repurpose the newsletter content? Post an article on the website? Tell people about events on the calendar through Twitter and Facebook?

    Document the detailed strategy and action plan. Identify measurements and benchmarks to ensure each communications resource continues to meet its goals. Chart a road map for each piece. Detail the target audience, secondary audience, purpose for the audience, purpose for the church and promotion. Include who is responsible for its creation and a production timeline.

  4. Act.

    Put the results of the communications audit into action. Tell those involved about the road maps so they can refer to them to ensure their progress is on track. Ask them to identify holes and work to determine how to fill those holes.

  5. Revisit periodically.

    Schedule and conduct a communications audit at least annually to identify what is and is not working and what you need to change to make your congregation's communications most effective.

Get samples of all the different components that make up a good church communications audit.

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