As every Englishman wants to do when I first came to Australia in 1992 I wanted to be able to brag on my return to England that I had surfed at Bondi Beach.
My friends and I hired a long board and sat on the beach. When it was my turn to have a go on the surf board I wandered to the waters edge, looked over at the surf life savers then proceeded to paddle out to the back, because that is where the serious surfers reside.
You see, what I didn't know because of my inexperience was that there was this thing called a rip. Now if you don't know what a rip is, it is a strong current just under the surface of the water. While I was sat on the board, admiring the amazing view back onto the beach and the surrounds I was unaware of the fact that I was rapidly drifting towards lots or rocks on the left hand side of the bay.
Before I knew it I was way to close to the rocks and the crashing waves for my own good. I started to try and paddle away from the rocks, but the best I could do was to stay still in the water – the rip was that strong.
Exhausted, I eventually gave in and started to drift towards the rocks. Knowing that I had nothing else to give I started to wave for help. Fortunately a big, bronzed surfer who was around 200 metres away from me came over on his board, seeing that I was exhausted he told me to hang onto his leg rope and he (to my shame) effortlessly paddled back against the rip and then took me some way back to the shore.
If there is one thing I hope you'll learn about me is that I'm upfront about my communication successes, near misses and failures. You can find one such moment of candor in a recent post about my own communications disasters.
But here's my point, churches like with my surfing can drift along in their communications. There are many 'rips' within churches that can mean that you drift along towards disaster. Here are five ways to avoid a communications wipeout:
1. A lack of experience.Don't over extend yourself what you are trying to achieve technically or creatively. Don't ignore the life guards, play it safe, swim between the flags. People will tell you that you can be wildly creative or push the technical boundaries. Sure, push them. But know that you better deliver. Otherwise your idea could be wiped out due to bad execution of the idea (Here is an example of a good execution).
2. No clarity on the goal of the communication. What outcome do you want to achieve in your communication? Be clear on it and ask yourself throughout the whole production process, is this communication still clear? Are we being clear on what we want people to do?
3. Lack of understanding of your audience who you are targeting. We can drift along and try and include everyone in as our primary audience, yet in reality it may be a small cross section of our community and the communication vehicle we are using may not be the best one to use. There may be a more targeted approach that will be more effective. Here is a previous post I wrote about having and knowing your who your audience is.
4. Use of insider language that excludes people. If you've ever been to a beach in Australia you'll see the flags that you are supposed to swim in between, but the Australian Government are now showing on almost every flight into Australia because so many tourists don't understand what the flags are there for. Some basic education videos have been developed to help tourists understand how to decode things like knowing that you should swim between the flags. Here are some examples of insider language in churches.
5. Let other forces drive the communications agenda. If you are not careful powerful 'rips' within your church can push your communications agenda to places that it shouldn't go. One way to resist 'rips' is to develop a communications manual. Here is a great collection of different church communications manuals.
How about you? What has worked for you or what wouldn't you do again in a hurry?