The Forgotten Role of Communication Leaders

June 24, 2013

Have you ever had a ministry leader come up to you with a big idea? It might start with talking about their ministry/event and jump right to “We need t-shirts”, or “We need a billboard”, or “We need a new logo, business cards and pens. Lots of pens.”

What’s funny about these conversations is the ministry leader is often expecting the “creative team” to jump right into adding the creative flair to the project and get it done.

What I’ve learned is that, as communication leaders, there is a crucial part of the job that many of us have forgotten. Yes, we need to promote and create SWAG from time to time. But honestly, that’s a small part of the job.

The crucial role that many communication leaders overlook is that they see themselves solely as a marketer, not a partner with the ministry. Marketers promote things after the planning and strategy have been completed. What we need to be is partners in the process.

What does that look like? We need to start asking the right questions before we jump right into a project. Here are the questions I ask any time I meet with a ministry about creative communication needs.

1) What’s the problem we’re trying to solve?

Behind every project is a problem to solve. Often times, instead of identifying the problem to solve, we jump right to what we think is the solution (logos, SWAG, redesigns, videos, etc). If we can zero in on the problem to solve, it can becomes the filter for decisions that are made.

2) What do we need to accomplish?

Through this question, we learn what’s at stake if we don’t solve the problem. Every project will have unique things that need to be accomplished. It could be something like awareness, a target number of sign-ups or for your audience to share/invite their friends. Identifying what you need to accomplish gives the ministry leader their opportunity to share the end result they are looking for. Then, partner with them to help them accomplish it.

3) What are the barriers?

Within every program, event, or new initiative, there are barriers that need to be overcome. There are barriers like: high cost of registration, taking a week off to attend, no childcare, complex instructions, confusing message, and long event length. As communication leaders, it’s our role to help identify and remove barriers that keep people from taking their next step. It’s not always our role to “fix” the barriers, but our role to identify the barriers so that together we can be strategic about creating solutions for them.

4) Does this align with the mission and vision?

As communication leaders, it’s crucial that what we communicate through all of our channels line up with the mission and vision of our organization. We need to know it as well as anyone. If not, we may end up with a cool product or creative element, but not help fulfill the mission and vision of the organization.

Here’s my challenge to all communication leaders:
Stop looking at your role solely as a marketer. Become a partner with your ministry leaders. Stop jumping in on the last 10% of an event or program by just doing the marketing. Walk along with the ministry leaders to help identify and remove barriers that accomplish the needs of the project.