So after much evaluation and conversation we decided that we needed to make some changes to the way we communicate. This involved making some tough calls about what would stay, what would go away, and what would change.
The biggest change in our communication was the stopping of our weekly newsletter. The newsletter had been our primary communication channel for events and news. Our evaluation told us that many people weren't reading the newsletter. Even those that were reading it missed a lot of information.
We're also stopping a number of our email lists. Particularly those that are not managed by a centralized database. Small lists will stick around (e.g. ministry leaders emailing a group of volunteers), but lists of a couple hundred people managed out of Outlook or Excel are ending. Ideally this communication will be directed to blogs. If email is still required it will be moved to a centrally managed list system.
Our PDF links to the newsletter are also going away. There are two big reasons for this shift. 1) there isn't a newsletter and 2) we'd rather people read the news right in their email client.
We sent out our first eNewsletter on January 1. The structure of the note is very simple. It includes event information for our four main ministry divisions (children, youth, college, & adults) as well as opportunities to serve. It's basically a grid of 10 bullets. See our current eNews. With our third eNews out we've got about a 45% open rate and roughly 20% of readers are clicking on something to go to the web site.
Several of our ministry leaders have had blogs, but we haven't had any central listing of them. We're offering two types of blogs to our ministries that are officially supported (meaning we'll help answer questions). We host an installation of Movable Type on a church server that can be used for blogs that speak for the church (ministries). We're also officially supporting WordPress.com and TypePad blogs for personal blogging. People can set up a blog anywhere else and still get linked, but the likelihood we can provide support is minimal.
We've also got a couple of Twitter accounts set up for specific ministry purposes. How we're using these hasn't really been determined, but we're figuring that out over the next couple of weeks.
Hopefully we're going to be starting video announcements in the near future as well. We'll start initially using them on the Missouri State campus and if they go well move them to the Sunshine campus.
Our weekend bulletin is expanded. It now includes a full spread of news/event info as opposed to just one column. We made the decision that it is much more effective to put information into people's hands while they're here on the weekend. The minimized space also reduces repeition and keeps communication focused on our four core groups (kids, youth, college, & adults). We do include info for arts ministries as needed (usually music).We're mailing copies of the bulletin to people that request it or that we know are homebound. Ultimately we've cut our mailing and printing by thousands of pieces/week.
The web site has also been significantly changed. I'll write more about those changes, the tools we used, and the logic behind the changes. I'll even include before/after shots. The web site is becoming our main communication tool. Traffic for January is already double the traffic for December and it's only halfway through the month.