I have been reflecting on how our churches and small projects do communications. Some recently have come to me and said that they need help and are not very good at it. What they mean is that they struggle with social media and are hopeless at updating their websites.
As part of my job I am working towards setting up a number of places of welcome across Bradford. Places of Welcome is a specific idea pioneered out of a city wide consultation in Birmingham about what makes a city welcoming. The Diocese of Birmingham then set up the Places of Welcome network.
A Place of Welcome has a sign outside a building saying come on in. Places of welcome is not a new idea but what I like about this version of it is that it’s a very clear and simple proposition based on five principles; It has a very clear set of values and an ethos to which supporters can readily subscribe. Continue reading “Places of Welcome in Bradford”
The use of video in social media is on the increase. Vine, Youtube and Vimeo are popular services and video increasingly is being used in blogs, on twitter and Facebook. It is easy to make high quality video on mobile phones and increased internet speeds now makes it possible to zap out a quick video post as part of social media activity. This explosion stills and video we have seen on-line is a really important shift in the way we communicate with each other.
The advice we’re getting now is that if you really want to connect with people in the social media environment incorporating video and stills can have a bigger impact than text alone. However, as more people are using video clips the novelty is bound to wear thin and so my thought is that canny social media users will need to pay more attention to the quality and relevance of the content. By quality and relevance I mean is the story told well and is it of timely interest to the audience.
Questions for reflection
- What does telling a story mean for the way we take our pictures and video?
- How important is it that we publish our post at a particular moment in time?
- When we publish stills, video and text are we contributing to a story which will be engaging for our particular audience?
- What insights does our story provide which will be of fresh interest to our followers?
- Is it our small story or is it part of a much bigger story?
Just has a couple of days talking about communications in the new CofE diocese and separately at the Woodhouse Community Centre in Leeds. Here I’m capturing a few personal thought about the value of telling stories within an organisational structure and how important it is to work with traditional media.
At the CofE I was encouraged that we very quickly got onto the question of desired impact of our communications. If we are evaluating a piece of creative communication the big question is always who is it aimed at and what do you want the impact be? What change in the way the audience thinks or behaves do we want to see? That is the real point and power of communications. Unless something changes as a result of our communication then what’s the point? Bound up in this question of impact is a question about the overall purpose of the communication effort.
Is there one big, huge, hairy reason we want to do this communications thing?
For me, the Church of England is in an extraordinary position regarding communications, like no other organisation I know of. The fact that every square inch of the country is in a parish, and therefore within this great network presents mind blowing opportunity. More than any other organisation it is in a position to understand the realities of life in our communities and to witness the impact of Christian faith in people’s experience.
I have worked in newsrooms at the BBC and the organisation is rightly proud of its commitment to regional news. The BBC has reporters who mostly live within a couple of hours journey of where a story might break. They will not only deliver headlines on a daily basis but will also follow stories over extended periods offering analysis and understanding. But there is a real anxiety about resourcing. Where do stories come from, who processes them and what is their relationship with the consumers?
When you think about it the traditional media is at risk of becoming isolated and disconnected from the world they are trying to report. I met a camera crew recently doing a piece about a project in a poor part of Leeds, Woodhouse in fact. The crew turned up in an expensive black Audi car and they all wore lovely Berghaus ski jackets. The news presenter was tanned and wore a long black executive coat and was fiddling with an iPad. I didn’t feel comfortable.
In another situation I spoke to one senior correspondent who was saddened that he was servicing so many outlets that he didn’t have time to find out what was going on! The script was written in London and then read out by him in Brussels, so the concept of “being there” wasn’t fully realised.
Journalists would reasonably argue that their professional skills are essential if the integrity of reporting is to be maintained. This is true of course but the integrity of the reporting is also put at risk if there are stories and voices that go unheard. Over time imbalances in our ability to access stories can lead to a screwed view of the world which becomes self fulfilling.
The church, far from being other worldly, has a membership which if joined together and with their communities can be rooted in big reality. There are very few places where people of different backgrounds and generations can come together in the way they do in the Church of England. My own church in affluent Ilkley has a real mix of people from homeless to filthy rich, there are all ages and at least a tiny amount ethnic diversity.
But hold on, let me take my tinted spectacles off and start again. The church, I confess, has a long way to go to get real diversity into many if its congregations but there are signs of hope. If we can show the church as it could be as well as how it is now we may have a vision that can take off. It could be brilliant.
Bringing people together, using the diocese to encourage people to visit different parts of the region, sharing resources and ideas across social boundaries is exciting. Most of all I would like to see parishioners participating in telling stories, particularly those stories that the press and media will find difficult to break into.
If the church diocese can design a communications network that encourages people to tell stories and, importantly, can share those stories and invite reflection and analysis then I think it will be very powerful. This is not about the Church of England competing with the traditional media but it is an opportunity for the media to gain better access to community life. There is a huge and important role for professional journalists to process, analyse and comment but they do need the full array of raw materials.
My vision for the Church of England comms team (and those of some of our community centres like Woodhouse), would be about giving a voice to those who are falling through the communication cracks. We would preach less and listen more.
The church should not just be an organisation that does communication but be, quite fundamentally, a communications organisation – bringing people together in relationship with each other and with God. Isn’t that the highest act of communication we could imagine?
I’m trying to be diligent in keeping notes about best-practice in communications management. At Oblong Leeds and All Saints Ilkley we have been on a journey discovering the best way to reach out into the community. Added to these organisations I’ve also been working with schools to better connect with parents and with Yorkshire Housing on a community consultation exercise. We are learning all the time.
My notes are drawn from some of the excellent ideas being put forward by people like Patrick B, Ann C, Mark S, Jemma B, Aimi W, Fiona S, Caroline R and others so I’m not looking for credit but just wanting to collate some of these ideas and experiences for discussion and development.
I’m starting a category thread called Connecting Communities which is helpful to me and maybe also to you.
At All Saints Ilkley we have a new group for parents of very young children called Joining the Dots. Ann, the organiser, asked me if I could put something on the website for her. She got the copy written herself and took the trouble to buy a stock photo she could use as a brand image. I was up to my eyes in work at the time so I suggested to Ann that she might like to have access to the website and update content herself, which she has done (she knows all the detail so great idea).
The next thing Ann did was to arrange a mention on Moor Mums, a local website (for mums obviously). Having purchased the copyright for a promotional image and created a simple advert the website was going to be much more inclined to put this nice splash of colour on their front page with a link to our website.
On our website we ran the details in the blog section with a link from the front page. This meant that visitors were also exposed to other front page information about All Saints. We have made sure that all the strategically important messages are on the front page alongside transient news promos . You may also notice that the brand logo for All Saints which we have just launched runs through every exposure.
The item became the most popular piece of content on the website in the month to the date. Visitors to the Joining the Dots taster day reported having seen the event on the Moor Mums website. We don’t know if they also saw it on the All Saints website but we do know we had an increase in the numbers of people who were expose to our brand, and our values – and also a logo that will help identify us in future.
More to follow on this bookmark Connecting Communities