The first time I worked at a church, I was part of launching both a newsletter and web site, two of the most powerful communication tools available. If you wanted to find anything about our church, you could find it online provided you had a good scrolling wheel on your mouse and you had the persistence of a Sudoku champion.
We focused on making as much information available with many pages crammed with text and links, trying to assure our congregation that they were well within the loop. Unfortunately, we viewed our communication as too much of a one-way act.
We dumped information.
The congregation received it.
End of communication.
In her book Less Clutter, Less Noise, communications pro and author Kem Meyer reminds her readers in chapter one that they are not in control. In fact, she says, “Good communication is not so much about sending the right message as it is releasing the right response” (17).
This is something I’ve been forced to consider as a book author, blogger, and now communications volunteer at a different church. We want our readers to take some kind of action or arrive at a certain understanding, and it’s vital to remember that something will happen after we communicate.
There may be a response, uneasiness, or confidence. The hard thing for leaders and communications staff to understand is it’s quite hard to control that response. Good communication requires carefully evaluating the goal for communication, the anticipated audience response, and then the means of communicating in light of the two.
While working at a museum/gallery a few years ago I began to feature top volunteers in our newsletter, however, that “human interest” section of the newsletter only made those not featured feel inadequate. We therefore changed the newsletter to feature new opportunities, celebrating group accomplishments, and giving special previews of upcoming shows—all of which were more effective in making volunteers feel appreciated and in the loop.
Meyer offers several examples in this chapter from large businesses such as Legos and Google that demonstrate how any company can lose sight of an audience and blunder into controlling errors. She encourages readers to seek outside perspectives when evaluating the possible outcome of certain pieces of communication.
Most simply, communication is about sharing information in order to arrive at specific results. In Less Clutter, Less Noise, Meyer does a masterful job in assembling simple, readable chapters that help communications professionals, administrators, and pastors take leaps forward.
Questions to consider:
- When can we become too controlling with our communication?
- How do we evaluate the effectiveness of our communication goals?
- Where can we find outside perspectives for our communication?