Ever have a moment when you’ve failed? I remember one of my many moments well. We were going to be raising money for a new initiative.

I had just transitioned from the corporate world of advertising and marketing and was new to church communications.

I had a “brilliant” idea that we could do some teaser flyers for our Sunday services for our upcoming giving campaign.

It bombed. I mean really sucked. I remember the Sunday service well and the reaction was just so underwhelming. 

Here’s the thing. I loved the idea. I liked the creative execution. 

But it was too clever. There was no context for the audience. No “aha” moment where they could link the cleverness to a call to action and be inspired to be a part of the vision.

Here are five leadership lessons I’ve learnt out of it:

1. Take ownership of my failures

I could have used excuses about others failure to communicate around the communication piece. But in the end, it was the idea that really didn’t fly. It fell. I had to take ownership of that failure. 

2. It’s okay to take a risk and fail. But learn from it

In the end, we tried another strategy which worked and we raised the money. I tried something new, failed and learnt an important principle which is my next point.

3. You can be too clever

Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in our own idea that we fail to see if the idea will actually communicate the truth or change we want our audience to act upon. We can take the background knowledge that we know about the campaign and assume those will come along for the ride. Most won’t. They will either ignore it, be confused or just think its incompetence. 

Once you’ve delivered a communication piece, you have about three seconds to make an impact on a person’s thinking. If you miss that moment. They’ll move on.

4. Know your audience

Knowing what resonates with our audience and what doesn’t is a great starting point. Understanding their fears, dreams, aspirations and day to day reality is key to communicating for change. 

5. Pick yourself up

Don’t stay stuck in a pity party. Move on to the next thing. Try something else. You owe it to the community you serve. 

Bottom line. Teasers style campaigns rarely work in the world of church and non-profit communications. People are looking for vision, storytelling, compelling ideas for change or transformation. They work. 

Your turn

Have you ever failed at something? Tried something and it crashed and burned? What did you learn from it? Comment below.