Building our Church Communication Guide

One of my 2016 side projects has been the development of our new communication guide for the church. 

So first things first: What do I mean when I say communication guide?

I mean a document that precisely instructs our church staff on how to make things for our church. It's the one-stop guide to questions like, "Which church logo should I use?" or "How do I deal with an internet troll on our Facebook page?" or "What color should this series graphic be?" or "How do I write a description for an event?" 

When you begin to think about the specific questions that you have to sub-consciously ask each time you create something, you understand the kind of answers I wanted to provide in this little guide.

Why should you have a communication guide? Good question. Read what I wrote about that (in 2014) here.

The 2016 Revision

As I mention in the 2014 article I just linked to, I designed a communication guide 2 years ago. But it was time for an update.

For one, we opened a new campus and have hired a lot more staff since I made the 2014 version. Our church is constantly making new things and the number of staff who create those things has grown. We're not a megachurch either - so there's not like a "marketing department" where one group of staff members can make absolutely every piece of church communication. Our small creative team can handle the big projects, but the most efficient system for us is to have the staff create as much as possible for their own ministries. 

To do that, they need to know how. And no matter who creates something- whether it's me, one of our interns, a volunteer, or a pastor- it needs to be consistent with all our other projects both in essence and in form.

So What's in the 2016 Guide?

I wanted this version to be extensive. The major topics it covers are:

  • Why we should care about communication
  • The driving goals of all our communication
  • Who our audience is
  • How to write for our audience 
  • Color use
  • Font use
  • How content gets from us to our audience
  • How/when to use our logo (and which one)
  • What our web goals are
  • What to focus on in a promo
  • What our visual language is and how to implement it
  • Social media goals, persona, and rules
  • Campus branding vs. church branding
  • Ministry identities (characteristics, logos, colors, fonts)
  • Promotion design
  • Photo style
  • Event promotion design
  • Recommended reading

Something to note is that this guide doesn't provide technical instruction. So, for example, it doesn't tell you how to login to the website and edit it. It does, however, instruct you on what kinds of edits to make to a website, what goes on the homepage, and how often it should be updated. Make sense?

And This Time, We Printed It

As I mentioned in the 2014 article, the style guide I made in 2014 was in iBooks only. In other words, it was a digital book that staff could read on their Mac or iOS device. 

The problem was that it didn't get used very often. It felt unsubstantial and very few of our staff ever referenced it (or probably ever read it at all). And though I used it often, I hated having to open iBooks, finding the guide, opening it, then scrolling until I found what I needed. It was a pain.

I knew going into the design process for the 2016 revision that I wanted it printed into a small 5.5 x 8.5 inch book. The result was a full color guide that was something you would want to flip through and look at. All of the staff received one. And it's actually really, really nice. Something I enjoy using. 

The Moment of truth

The result? I field a lot less questions from our staff, designs look a lot more consistent, and more content has been developed by "non-creative" staff members. 

It's not perfect, but I'm really happy with how it turned out.

If you'd like to see what the final 2016 guide looks like, you can view it by clicking the button below and hitting "Preview" on the next page.