4 Mistakes From My First 3 Years As Communications Director

April 8, 2013

March 2013 marked my 3 year anniversary as Communications Director at West Ridge Church. It has been an incredible blessing to to work for a church that I love, respect and would choose to attend.

These three years have been filled with some triumphs, challenges, loss, and lessons. I still have a long way to go, but I’ve learned a lot about myself and the role of communications in the church. Looking back specifically on my role as Communications Director, here are 4 mistakes from my first 3 years in this role along with some lessons I’ve learned along the way.

I didn’t have a focused volunteer strategy

  • Getting qualified and consistent volunteers engaged in a church communications team can be very challenging. At first, if anyone was interested in getting involved, no matter the time commitment or talent level, I would attempt to get them plugged in. I didn’t spend the time up front building solid job descriptions for each position with qualifications and time-commitment required. Because there weren’t proper expectations communicated, people got lost in the shuffle. In the second year, I refocused my volunteer strategy with higher expectations for time and qualifications, and then dedicated more time in investing and equipping them.
  • Lesson: Start with simple volunteer job descriptions with qualifications and expectations for each volunteer position. It’s ok to have high expectations for talent and time commitment as long as it is communicated upfront. 

I didn’t set a healthy and sustainable pace

  • Coming into my role as Communications Director, I knew that I was building something from the ground up. There wasn’t an established team or systems in place to build from. I was doing the building. Luckily, that’s exactly what I love to do! The challenge was that the needs and demands exceeded what I could do in a 40hr work week. I’d find myself almost every day waking up early or staying up late working extra to try and get “caught up”, only to find myself never getting there. This was by no means coming from pressure to over-work from my boss (quite the opposite), but more from how I’m wired. I’m wired to be always thinking about what’s next and how can we take what we’re doing to the next level. The pace that I was going at was not healthy or sustainable for me. To be honest, I still struggle with this. This is a constant tension to manage.
  • Lesson: Focus from the beginning on creating a healthy and sustainable pace for what you’re doing. You can’t do everything overnight. Focus on the critical needs, identify the non-critical needs, and attack them over the year strategically so that you and your team are being healthy and sustainable. Schedule in vacation time at the beginning of the year. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

I was too slow to move our site mobile

  • In the first year, we rebuilt from the ground up with brand new content and a new CMS (Expression Engine). Our web traffic has grown steadily since then as we’ve built a trust with our audience that our site is the #1 place to find the information they need. What I underestimated in the first two years is how quickly mobile traffic was growing. Just last year, over 1/3 of our traffic (almost 80,000 visits) came from mobile. So at the end of 2012, we rebuilt our site with responsive design so that it now mobile friendly and works well on all desktop and mobile platforms. The results and traffic growth have been fantastic. I just wish we had done it sooner.
  • Lesson: If you’re redesigning your website, make sure it is responsive and mobile friendly. If your site is not currently mobile friendly, start making plans now to make that change.

I let long-term vision get lost in short-term tasks

  • Too many times in my first three years I would get caught in a reactionary workflow and spend much of my time answering emails, putting out fires and responding to short-term tasks. My mistake was that I didn’t block out time to dream and evaluate where we were as a team and build a vision for where we needed to go. Without realizing it, I was sacrificing the long-term vision for the short-term needs.
  • Lesson: Schedule time at least once a month to sit back and evaluate where you are and where you and your team needs to be. It’s always going to be busy, but this time is crucial for your leadership. Block off some time monthly to build a plan and vision for the future.

What are some of your do-over moments and lessons learned? Leave a comment below so I and others can learn from you!