19/01/2016

Making It Easier to... get your church noticed!

If you come to our Making It Easier training day for PCC members on 27th February 2016, you’ll see presentations on key themes to give you the latest information on how to run your parish well.

Over the next six weeks, we’re sharing a flavour of each of these six areas to encourage you, or your PCC members, to make the most of this excellent opportunity to access the experts. This week we’re looking at communication.
We live in an age where it's increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd. Yet as a church called to proclaim the gospel afresh for each generation, we need to be challenged to do this creatively and effectively. We spoke to our visiting speaker: Neil Pugmire, Communications Adviser to the Diocese of Portsmouth, and author of the recently updated book 100 Ways to Get Your Church Noticed.
Q. What prompted you to write the book?
A. Part of my role is to advise churches in Portsmouth about how to communicate effectively. There was no up-to-date manual I could give them that included everything parishes wanted to know - about a strategy, logos, noticeboards, magazines, posters, media liaison, websites and using your church building effectively. So I thought l'd write one. That was back in 2006.1 revised it in 201 4 because the first edition was out of date and out of print.
Q. Why is it important that churches take PR and publicity seriously?
A. We live in a world where we are surrounded by incredibly sophisticated publicity - advertising billboards, social media promotions, glossy magazines and hard-sell TV adverts. In the face of that, the typical photocopied church magazine or tatty poster on a noticeboard simply isn't going to be noticed by those outside our doors. Taking publicity seriously involves firstly thinking about who we're trying to reach and exactly what we're trying to say, before we settle on a range of publicity methods, each of which might reach a different group. Few churches have even gone through this initial stage of planning, and assume that what worked before may work again. Not taking it seriously can mean no one knows about the good work our churches do, and therefore Christianity becomes an irrelevance.
Q. What is your background and how did you research it?
A. I trained as a journalist and worked on local newspapers for nine years before starting work as communications adviser for Portsmouth's CofE diocese. So I already knew how the media worked. I'd also edited a parish magazine before. Over time, I built up some expertise on graphic design, and learnt what makes websites and social media effective. Many of the examples in the book are actually taken from real-life examples in Portsmouth Diocese or beyond. I suppose l've been a bit of a magpie, finding out what has worked in one church and suggesting that other churches in the same situation might do something similar.
Q. How was the first issue received?
A. Well, it sold out, which must be good! It had good reviews and it led to the national Church of England asking me to run courses for churches around the country on how they can get noticed.
Q. Is there not a danger of this being about management, not God?
A. Yes, possibly. It should go without saying that we should pray about everything we do, but sometimes it is worth saying it anyway! There is also the danger of churches thinking they can rely on God to prompt people to attend our services or events. Sometimes God actually wants us to be the answer to our own prayers. God might inspire someone to ask questions about faith, but they won't find their way to your church if you haven't publicised what you do effectively.
Q. What made you decide to revise it and what have the revisions been?
A. The explosion in the use of social media and the growth in mobile friendly websites and apps that can be viewed on Smartphones meant that the 2006 book was already looking dated. It was also getting harder to find, as no new copies were being printed. Church House Publishing expressed an interest in a revised and expanded edition, so I made sure I included information about all these new techniques in the new edition. Going through the text with a fine toothcomb also threw up some other items that needed revising too. Part of the problem about working in this field is that you never quite know what communication technique will take off next. So it might need to be revised again in another few years!
Q. How can churches best use your book?
A. Hopefully as a manual that can be used. So after an initial skim, it might involve church members dipping into different parts of the book as they grapple with different things. Each of the 100 ways has a  ‘how to’ section, which takes readers through how to do something in easy stages. Hopefully that helps to break down what can look like a daunting task. There’s also an accompanying website - www.getyourchurchnoticed.com - where readers can pick up extra tips, and share details and images of what's worked for them. Inevitably there is also a Facebook page and Twitter feed to help us talk to each other about these issues.
Q. In the Diocese of Liverpool we have been pursuing our growth agenda for years. How does getting a church noticed help with this?
A. The biggest misconceptions about churches is that they are all boring, irrelevant and on an inevitable decline. If that's not true about your church, you need ways to tell people about it or they may assume it’s also on the brink of closure. You will need ways to tell your local community, via the media, your church literature and online, about your good news - that your church is growing, full of families, helping the marginalised, attracting thousands of tourists or however else you are bucking the trend. Hopefully this book will help you to do that.

100 Ways to Get Your Church Noticed is published by Church House Publishing and is available from the Cathedral Shop and other good stockists.

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Making It Easier Day

Saturday 27th February