You know, when it’s time to get your car serviced…or maybe you’re about to buy one of those pre-certified automobiles, and you see that big list of stuff they promise to do? The 175-point safety inspection? The 45-point we’re-gonna-lubricate-every-square-inch-of-this-thing guarantee? Who knows whether 45 or 100 is the magic number, but you’re supposed to get this message: We’ve got you covered.
Similarly, there’s a lot in to blogosphere about “3 steps for this” and “Top 10 of that,” and of course, these short lists not only get you to goof-off for a bit longer after you’ve checked the news, you don’t feel so guilty if it’s “only” half-dozen or so things you either didn’t know …or figure you can safely and easily cram them into your marginally-useful brain aisles (a.k.a., the “trivia” section).
Alas, I can’t boil any useful list of “tips for communication leadership” into five or ten quick points, but I know that it’s not long before any checklist is pushing it. So, if you’ll allow me the 20-Point list you see here, I’ll keep the rest of this brief.
The main point I try to make about being a “communication leader” is that it doesn’t happen by accident. Poll after poll in most church and non-profit organizations cite “communication” as one of the ongoing, stubborn challenges. We have all these interpersonal skills and all this technology, yet we can’t or don’t communicate sufficiently or promptly enough or accurately of what-have-you. I boil down a successful communication leadership role as having three main “buckets”:
The Right Tools:
I’m not going to get into a lengthy pro-and-con discussion about whether Twitter is better than Snapchat or whether you should at last get rid of the bulletin. But…rather than be fueled by personal preference (yours or someone else’s), start to evaluate communication tools by asking these questions:
- How easy is it to set-up, master, and maintain? – Are we talking lots of time with the “book for dummies”? Will it take most of this week, um, month – to get it the way we want it? Does it require extraordinary care and feeding?
- What is the cost of ownership – initially and over time? – That ink-jet printer was a steal down at the big-box store, but are we paying a penny-per-sheet or seven cents-per-sheet? How often will we need to call that web-guy (isn’t he in college now?) for updates to the web site? Do we know how to calculate costs, including opportunity/time costs? If it takes me six hours to do something I should now be able to do (with new technology or processes) in two, can I put a number on that?
- What is the life-cycle of this tool? – Nothing says “leadership” like dumping a few thousand dollars on a tool with an 18-month life cycle. Look at your demographics and trends. Look at how quickly something might “pay for itself” in terms of hard costs (initial expense, service, etc.) and your soft costs (time to learn, maintain, etc.) Will you be stuck with something destined for the closet?
- Is the tool a stand-alone or does it have complimentary qualities? – This can be tricky, because it may take some imagination, and the ability to plan for multiple users and skill levels. Investing a little bit in a nicely done logo, for instance, tends to pay lasting benefits by being usable across all sorts of print and electronic formats. Are there other tools that “work-with” and “enhance” rather than serve as a specialty, or limited-use tool?
- How transferable is the communication tool? How much training is required? – Obviously, something that involves intense training doesn’t help all that much (think carefully about software and hardware in this regard) because it works against what the business world calls “onboarding.” People simply resist complication, especially amidst a thousand other things to do. Moreover, when it comes time to pass along the training, you will want tools that are simple and intuitive to an average or below-average technical capability. That’s not a put-down on the technical literacy of churches. It holds true just about everywhere. If training and later transfer of knowledge takes significant time, then the tool is a detriment.