Creative Leadership

Leaders: Why Eliminating Your Communications Team Is A Mistake

On Friday I received another email from a friend who was let go from a major nonprofit organization who had slashed their communication department. I had to put that email in the growing folder I’d received over the last year from others in similar situations. It seems that whenever a church, ministry, or nonprofit gets into financial difficulty, the first department to eliminate is communications. After all, do we really need that social media person or the video people? Surely we can trim our web staff, right?

Here’s the problem with that kind of thinking: The job of your communications team is to multiply your message. That sermon your preach, the fundraising appeal, the water wells you dig, the homeless shelter you build or the meals you provide? It’s their job to take that message to the world.

Which means that without your communications team, your story, and by extension your impact will be diminished and possibly eliminated. Our team at Cooke Media Group consults and advises churches, ministries, and nonprofits on many of these communications and media issues. As a result, you wouldn’t believe the number of leaders who call us in desperation to say that 1-3 years earlier, they eliminated their communications department, stopped using TV or radio to tell their story, or terminated other media campaigns because budgets were tight.

But now, they realize it was a huge mistake.

After months or years, they now understand that decision meant they cut ties with donors and supporters – not to mention being able to share their story with the general public. They call because they want to re-launch their communications and media effort. But by then it’s like starting all over. The donors have moved on, social media followers changed their allegiance, and media viewers and listeners are now interested in something else.

In a media-driven culture, it’s time to stop thinking that communications or media is expendable.

Of course your teaching, social services, evangelism, humanitarian, and other work is paramount. It’s the reason you exist. But if you’re not telling that story well, then your effort – and your impact – will never grow. As I’ve said many times on this blog: No matter how great your work and message, if no one’s listening you’ve failed.

Maybe it’s time to re-think your priorities when it comes to communications and media.

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  1. Preach, Reverend Cooke! As a PR practitioner, I can vouch for a very similar mindset among ministries and non-profits where branding, media relations and crisis communications are concerned. Nobody wants to have that in place until the investigative reporter – and a camera – show up on the doorstep to ask about a scandal, some misconduct or another issue that your local press has deemed newsworthy. Then we want to hide behind the walls. “We’ll just raise the drawbridge, hunker down and hide inside the castle until the siege is over and the Hittites and the Amalekites go away.” False, negative or inaccurate information about a ministry can have the exact same effect you referenced on donors, members and public opinion. Thanks for bringing this up…

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