More and more churches are finally deciding to hire a communications director. But each church’s communications needs vary wildly. Here are some big principle things to look for in deciding what your next church communications role should look like.
Assess Your Needs Not Your Wants
Churches are unique in that they tend to blend marketing with communications. Marketing is externally focused (community events, evangelism, outreach, brand awareness) and communications tend to be internally focused (member engagement, event sign ups, programs, small groups, etc). Your church will want a blend of all of these things, but each church’s priority list looks a little different. Each Comms Director will have a different set of specialties. For example, my personal strengths are in strategy, digital evangelism, SEO, and management. I work best when I have a team of people. My weaknesses are video editing, graphic, and print design. I can do those things but there are a lot of great people that excel in those areas. Most small to mid sized churches are limited in their hiring capacity so if they have a 1 person team, then often, they need someone who can manage their top priorities first.
Also, as I said, my specialization is in outreach. I am a marketing director who can do comms. But for many churches, their primary focus is on keeping members and attendees informed and aware of church activities. I wouldn’t be a good fit in that scenario, but there are a lot of great people who would.
Finally, here is a need that a lot of churches are even unaware of; strategic planning. The ideal church communications director is one that enables each ministry to minister more and better. And frequently the comms director enables them to strategically work together. Many churches view their comms team as a service shop. If your current desire is to just make sure that you events have materials on time then you should just consider outsourcing everything and hiring someone part time to manage vendors.
As I mentioned previously, the ideal comms director, whether your church thinks they need it or not, is one who can think strategically. There are a lot of moving parts involved. All marketing should be multichannel marketing. Churches should be leveled and not have their ministries siloed. Your church communications director will need to be aware of the entire church year calendar, each event, announcement, mission trip, and program. And they will need to help your prioritize everything. That will involve a lot of strategic thinking.
I actually believe that hardly anyone is a good multitasker. I just think that some people are better at switching gears quickly. Look for someone who is able to see the consequences and outcomes of making last minute changes and who will be able to make adjustments on the fly without losing site of the 10,000 foot view.
Creative Director vs Strategy Leader
If everything I’ve said so far about strategy isn’t for your church. If a strategic leader sounds like one too many seats at the table. Then you aren’t actually looking for a church communications director, you’re looking for a creative director. A creative director is someone who can translate your ideas and visions into beautiful, well designed messages. Typically a creative director will have a graphic design or video background. Good creative directors will still be able to manage teams and will be able to work autonomously without any handholding. And they will still be able to help with some strategy but it won’t be their top priority.
While the church comms director should be involved in helping to level the church silos, they should also be the biggest listener on staff. The church comms director needs to make each staff member feel heard and understand. They need to be able to navigate the inherent politics that comes with prioritization. If they play favorites, if they push their own agenda, then they are going to crash and burn.
The ideal comms director is so sold out on the church’s mission that they not only stay on mission themselves, but they keep everyone else on mission as well. If you are hiring the comms director, hire someone that you are comfortable having them tell you “no” when necessary and trust that they have the church’s mission in mind when they do so. Come to think of it, this also sounds a lot like a great church secretary 😉
Able To Cast Vision But Able To Be Rejected
Comms directors should be strategic thinkers and visionaries. But their primary role is to facilitate the greater mission of the church. So make sure to look for someone who gets your vision, and is able to run with it. What does that vision and mission look like practically? What does it look like for next Thursday and what does it look like over the next 5-10 years?
But your comms director is not your senior pastor. And often their creative ideas will get shot down. A good comms director will be ok with that. They will need to fight for their ideas, train leadership on how to read data and analytics, and be able to prove their claims. But sometimes the answer is still no. How will your prospective candidate handle that? Will their frustration gradually build up over time or will it narrow their focus to be more intensely on the mission of the church?
Hopefully this helps you narrow your search. But if your church is getting serious about hiring a comms director but struggling with where to start, send me a message! I’m happy to answer a few basic questions or offer a full consultation service to assess your church’s communications needs. Get started on getting your message out there today!