Communications Toolbox: Church Announcements & Newsletters
By Janis Greenbaum, Director of Communications
The Episcopal Diocese of Missouri
I don’t know about you, but I have a love/hate relationship with church announcements and newsletters.
Let’s start with the hate: I hate that creating them takes so much time. I hate that I have to nag people to give me information. I hate it when people say, “I wish I would have known about that!” (but I’ve published it for the past month.) I hate that I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I often make stupid mistakes that are read by hundreds of people.
Now for the love – because, let’s face it, communication is what I do! I love sharing all the wonderful news, events, opportunities, and stories happening in and around the Diocese of Missouri. I love the sense of community that comes from sharing a great photo or video. I love hearing that people had a great experience at an event they learned about in the announcements. I love it when someone says, “Thank you so much for sharing that. It really helped us out!”
I could go on all day, but let’s focus on some best practices for church announcements and newsletters.
I want to begin by saying there is no ONE right way to create and distribute your church announcements and news. What works for one church may not work at all for another. So we’re going to talk about lots of different ideas and you should use any combination that works for your church. And these are just my suggestions – it’s okay for you to disagree!
Let’s start by going back to that same idea of communications strategy that I keep harping on: You need to set goals and initiatives for your announcements and newsletters to be successful – make a plan:
- What is the goal of your publication?
- Who is your audience?
- What is your message?
- What is the best way to communicate that message?
- What’s the timeline?
- Who will get it done?
Let’s take a look at several different ways you can communicate about your news and events.
Personal announcements during church:
- Limit the number of in-person announcements each Sunday. I recommend no more than three (and maybe that one emergency announcement that you accidentally left off the printed sheet).
- Consider using the 50% rule – if an announcement doesn’t apply to at least half the people of your congregation, don’t include it in your spoken announcements.
- Limit the amount of time/words spent on each announcement.
- Refer people to your printed announcements, email newsletter, or website for the rest of the news for the week.
- Have one person give all the announcements. That way they’ll be planned and will stay short and concise.
- Consider using a personal story to engage the congregation.
- Decide when to do announcements: Before service begins, after the Peace, before dismissal
Printed announcements with the church bulletin:
- Use a separate bulletin insert rather than printing your announcements in the back of your bulletin. A single sheet is more likely to go home with your members.
- Print on colored paper to stand out from the bulletin.
- Choose a size of paper that fits the size of your bulletin. If your sheet is smaller than the bulletin, it will fall out. If it’s bigger, it will be difficult to handle.
- Segment your announcements. Make it easy for people to find what they’re looking for. Example: put all children’s events in one area; put all volunteer opportunities in another area, etc. Use headings to make it obvious.
- Keep the same format for all announcements and highlight the important details. Example:
Headline (larger font/bold)
Short description - only a few lines
- Use visual/graphic elements to call attention to important announcements. (Make sure you have copyright permission!)
- Set a limit on how long an individual announcement will run. Important events should be announced early, but all the details don’t have to run every week. Consider a bullet list of reminders, or upcoming events (date and title only). Then run the full detailed announcement for two weeks leading up to the date.
Email announcements / newsletters:
- Use an email service for a sharper, branded email (MailChimp, Constant Contact, iContact, etc.).
- Offer easy ways to sign up for your email (on your website, in the church office, etc.).
- Consider sending the email from a “real” person. Humans respond to other humans. Your rector is the most identifiable person in your parish – members will be more likely to open an email from them.
- Keep your design fairly simple. Be consistent with colors (don’t use too many), fonts, and font sizes.
- Send your email on the same day and time each week. Best days: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays. Best times: 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
- Consider inspiration over information with your content. It’s important to get details out, but we’re also looking to call people to action.
- Segment your announcements. Make it easy for readers to find what they’re looking for. Example: News, Events, Volunteer, Prayers, etc.
- Keep announcements short. If you have a lot of information, link to a full story on your website or consider sending a separate email.
- Include in every email:
- Church address
- Office phone & email
- Link to website
- Link to online giving
Video screen announcements:
- Keep these extremely short. Use headlines and dates.
- Leave each announcement up for at least 7 seconds before rotating to next. You should be able to read the entire announcement before it changes.
- Be creative! Use quality, high resolution pictures and video.
Social media announcements:
- One event or news item per post.
- Use images to draw attention.
- Link to details on your website.
- Create FB events.
- Consider boosting posts for greater exposure.
Text messaging announcements:
- Highly effective / good response rate
- Keep your message extremely short and refer to another source for more information.
- Your website is your hub for all communications!
- Post detailed news and event information and use links to your stories from all your platforms.
- Targeting your audience is very important with announcements. Use formats that work for your congregation.
- Be consistent:
- Visuals / Branding - all your publications should be immediately recognizable on all formats. Use your logo, same colors, same fonts, etc.
- Messaging - if different people do your publications, make sure you all have the same information and follow a consistent writing style.
- Timing - your congregation will look for your publications at a certain day and time.
- Keep announcements short. Put additional information on your website and link to those details.
- Edit before publishing. We’ve all been caught by stupid mistakes. Ask a friend or co-worker to look over your work before publishing.
- Set deadlines for your members to contribute content (and make sure everyone knows the deadlines).
- Inspire and inform - both are important to keep in mind with your content.
Download a pdf of the presentation used in our First Fridays event on April 1, 2022.