Last year, I partnered with TonyMorganLive & The Unstuck Group to publish the following article. Just this week (it's only Wednesday), I've had multiple calls and emails about how to prioritize promotional activity. I think it's time for a throwback. Enjoy.
Once upon a time, in a church, far, far away, there was a problem with communications…
Overwhelmed with increasing number and volume of promotion requests, Calvin the Communications Guy starts to feel things spinning out of control and out of reach. He falls into reactive mode and his performance starts to deteriorate under the stress of constant chaos and defeat. With high amounts of pressure and low amounts of clarity, Calvin’s emotional margin quickly degenerates into something that is far from the best version of himself. But, he can’t take time to work on himself, because he’s too busy fielding pings from from multiple departments and ministry leaders and volunteers; emails about design choices, phone calls about the latest typo that was printed, drive-by last minute event requests and texts about video edits.
Calvin goes to his boss, Bruno and asks for help: “I need more staff. I can’t keep up with the workload.” Bruno, of course, knows there is no current budget for more staff. So, he tells Calvin to manage his time better and recruit more volunteers to help with the workload. As Calvin leaves his office, Bruno says quietly to himself “Maybe Calvin isn’t the guy for the job.”
Meanwhile, stakeholders get frustrated their expectations aren’t being met, quality decreases, team trust deteriorates and silos increase. From hero to zero, Calvin the Communications Guy is in a bad way. And, nobody knows how to help.
It’s obviously not a fairytale. It’s not even a made-up story (not even close).
And, if you find yourself asking this question, “How can we help our overwhelmed communications leader and team?” It might even be your story.
I can tell you hiring more staff won’t help the problem. You’ll just find yourself asking the same question with more people and more work.
Instead, create a Promotions Triage.
A Promotions Triage is a smarter way to decide what gets communicated when. It's a simple document that holds the list of vital signs to check and the channels you use based on those vitals. It’s basically a list of simple rules and clear guidelines for well-defined activities or situations. What’s their purpose? To help staff make good choices when things start to get convoluted.
"Simple Rules reduce the factors you have to consider in a situation by highlighting the crucial, thus preventing you from ruminating over trivial details. This enables you to make good choices, and fast – something very useful in the case of an army hospital. How do you sort out what’s crucial in this hypothetical scenario? Check your patients’ vital signs, such as their pulse, to estimate the severity of their condition. This takes less than a minute per patient. Those with the most alarming vital signs have to be treated first – unless they’re beyond hope, in which case you’d better focus on saving someone else’s life. Already this basic triage has lifted you clear of the pressing dilemma of what to do."
Simple Rules, How to Thrive in a Complex World
There are some primary vitals that should be taken into account when you are establishing the “simple rules” for your Promotions Triage. These vitals don’t have to get too detailed, but do provide a framework to help think through as each little inventory and calendar item hits the queue.
1. Mission and Vision
Your specific church mission and vision should shape the voice and expression you use to communicate (how you sound and how you carry yourself). This filter gives you confidence as you make triage decisions because your vitals are focused on the who and why over the what. For example:
- conversational, not academic or technical
- practical, real life and topically relevant
- organize around our guests, not our organization
- simple and clear
Your specific church strategy inevitably should shape the primary paths and weighting; the big buckets all the little individual ministry items fall into. (content themes) For example:
- Weekend (worship)
- Groups/Events (grow)
- Volunteer (impact)
There are a few baselines that apply to everyone-no matter what. It’s just proven math & physics. If everything’s important, nothing’s important. For example:
Everybody has a voice, but not everyone has a vote. Keep it clear who drives what when. For example:
- Know who has input rights versus decision rights; create a RACI chart
- Know what times a year affect different topical spikes or audience engagement for priority weightings
And, to help you (and Calvin the Communications Guy) get started, download this free sample template. Improve upon it. Make it better. Make it your own. When you decide ahead of time how to streamline activity with a few rules of thumb, you put your staff to work around a plan (instead of running in circles trying to plan around the work).