When you saw someone wearing a mask in the grocery store in early spring 2020, you would assume they were ill or had an allergy. Fast forward to the end of summer, and those strange looks go to the people who aren't wearing a mask. So, how did that happen? Here are three takeaways from the pandemic related to communication.
1. Be Clear
Everyone's all-too-familiar with the phrase "social distancing." Most people knew the benefits of washing their hands regularly. But now, "wash your hands" will be a phrase forever linked in memory to COVID-19. Or, how about "15 Days to Slow the Spread?" Everyone will remember this from the vice president, as he repeated it multiple times during every taskforce press briefing.
What do you want people to remember most about what you are offering? From what you're offering, how will they benefit the most? Make it clear and memorable.
2. Be Consistent
Once you define your message in one short phrase, use it consistently. You can use other words, but be sure that when people have listened to everything you've said, they at least walk away with that phrase. You will be tempted to change it up because you are tired of repeating yourself. But don't give in to it. Repeating the same message over and over will take hold.
Think of jingles on commercials. My kids go around singing them! And you can remember them from when you were young. Why? Because you heard them over and over and over again. What if they kept changing the tune? Consistency makes the message sticky.
For a time there was some confusion about masks. FIrst, you were to wear masks to protect others, Then they said that it didn't, so people thought masks weren't effective. Then, the message came about masks not protecting you but it protected others from you! The message about masks was inconsistent, which created confusion. Be consistent!
Churches tend to miss this ingredient. How often has your church either promoted an event way in advance or very close to the event date? Someone comes up to you asking about why they didn't know about an event that just passed? Did you ever say to yourself, "Well, it was in the bulletin!"?
But the bulletin isn't the silver bullet. If you wan't to be effective, it all comes down to how you manage your communication logistics in order to communicate each message constantly through multiple channels.
When it came to the pandemic, daily press briefings were vital. But it was also vital that news outlets reported the message, as well. This reporting helped spread the news about what was being asked of the American public.Whether through print, digital, or broadcast, it was important to everyone's health that they understood what was being asked of them, and the message got out. Within a few short weeks, millions of people were social distancing, wearing masks, and staying home.
Consider each communication "channel" — bulletin, live announcements, screen announcements, email newsletter, social media — as a collection of media that works together as one voice. No matter where your audience goes to get information, it's there.
These three ingredients — clarity, consistency, and constancy — only work well together. What are some examples you can cite where you've seen this working?
If you're ready to improve your communications strategy, ChurchCom Solutions can help.
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Don Wambolt has over 25 years' experience in leading church communications. More