6 Common Challenges Church Communicators Face
A Communications Coordinator's goal at a Catholic Church is to strengthen community by effectively communicating things about the parish. But let's face it. "Communications Coordinator" at most Catholic parishes is a title that encompasses many (sometimes too many) responsibilities. They strive to do many things beyond publishing the weekly bulletin and many of them run into the same challenges across the board. I myself have experienced challenges shared by others.
Here's a list of relatable problems many Communications Coordinators have:
1. Wearing many Hats
Communicators can be known to take up more than just writing the weekly bulletin. Some will also design, run social media, manage public relations, set up branding standards, photograph and video record the church and parishioners, run IT support, update the website, and many other unrelated tasks. I took a lot of photos when I was Communications for my campus ministry.
We are indeed talented, flexible, open to learning new things, and no doubt stretched for time.
Why not hire a someone else to take care of extra tasks? That's easier said than done. The most common reason is funding. Many churches are tight on finances as much as they campaign for support. If there is funding for the job, it's usually for much less pay and fewer hours than other secular positions offered. With limited resources, these positions often go unfilled or don't exist at all.
Money can also be an issue for production, such as printing, photography, and videography. Just like many schools, when funding is tight, art can be one of the first things to get cut. Similarly, if there is a limited budget, print production may suffer. There may be a need to purchase a good camera and small studio set-up, but the money isn't there. However, we Communicators are good at leveraging the resources available to them.
A priest told me once that if every parishioner properly tithed, churches would never have to do campaigns ever again.
3. Getting Content from Others
I enjoy getting articles from my colleagues to publish in communications. Not only is it nice to get help writing articles for a newsletter, blog, or website page, it can help foster a healthy community. It's better to get an article titled "Psychological Benefits of Performing Music - Sing in the Choir!" authored by the Music Director than the Communication Coordinator.
However, it can be challenging to get content from colleagues or ministry leaders who are also very busy, perhaps as busy as Communications. Sometimes, someone will need a few extra reminders to get an article finished and even then, deadlines may be missed and it's on the Communicator to come up with an article to fill the void. It's clear the Lord blesses Communicators with many opportunities to grow in patience and trust...
4. Creating Greater Community Awareness
Parish communications done right means parishioners are aware of what goes on and who is in their parish. It can help parishioners understand the true diversity of their congregation which nurtures a healthy community. For example, say there's a fundraiser for the school. It's obvious to market that event to parents, but what about the rest of the parish? There are certainly non-parent parishioners who would proudly attend a fundraiser for their Catholic school, like alumni or prospective parents. The trick is figuring out the right amount of parish-wide announcements.
Additionally, recalling our previous point it's great to get contributions from many different authors. It helps people get to know others through their writing. It's then a matter of getting them to see the benefit of getting their writing in front of the congregation. Also time management...
5. Marketing to many Demographics
A church's demographic can vary from parish to parish. The parishioners could mostly be in their 60's and older, young families, all age groups, or let's face it, in need of some young adults! It's imperative to know how to reach every parishioner that walks into church. What do they want to know? What do they need spiritually? What's the best way to communicate with this demographic? Knowing these things is important. However, if the parish is large and has a broad demographic, it can be a challenge to cover all channels like print, video, social media, and email. Great communicators are familiar with every possible channel and has an idea of who uses each.
6. Feeling discouraged
Everyone feels discouragement sometimes. Sometimes, a Communicator can put a lot of thought and effort into a campaign. That discouragement can manifest itself as, "Nobody is picking up the bulletin or is seeing what I'm putting out there on social, so why does it matter? All of that work was for nothing." There could be many reasons who people aren't seeing the posts or picking up the bulletin. Maybe the publication wasn't placed in an obvious place. Maybe the Facebook algorithm didn't show the post to as many people as it did with last week's post. Some disappointments have nothing to do with the Communicator's value and everything to do with external factors.
Good Communicators can look at analytics objectively and judge why assets are performing the way they are. They are then able to use that info to improve on future projects.
Alright, I'll admit, this was probably somewhat negative to read. In writing this post, I hope to offer some affirmation and support instead of doom and gloom. What are some possible solutions to these obstacles? Let me know in the comments!
There is plenty of evidence that excellent visual craft generally pays off in the end, but how can a Communications Coordinator possibly have good visuals if the person only has a degree in writing, marketing, or communications? I have a few thoughts!
In some of my next few blogs, I will be writing about "big" and "small" tips to improve various visual arts, starting with graphic design.
Thanks for reading and God bless!