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Ministry Matters

IDEAS, INSIGHTS & INSPIRATION BEYOND THE NORM

Share Your Story Using Email for Church Communications By Ryan Holck Recently we started a series on “Church Communications on the Cheap.” I spelled out “4 Steps for Budget-Friendly Success” in your communications. In that post, I promised practical ways to put the steps into action. I’d like to start today with email. Let’s face it, there is nothing glamorous about email. For many, it is a necessary evil that invades our space with info we’d rather ignore. But, done well, email gives churches a way to tell their story in a user-friendly way that members are already engaged with. The question is: How do we do it well? What steps can we take to keep costs low and deliver a quality email people want to open and read? We need to understand:

The Power of Email Email is the communication medium of choice for several reasons. hh Low cost hh Ease of setup hh It’s personal (goes to the user) hh It’s part of our everyday lives hh It’s transactional (people can interact with you) hh Email has nearly three times as many user accounts as Facebook and Twitter combined—2.9 billion (statistic from blog .kissmetrics.com/email-crushes-social-media) A look at the total emails sent every day versus the number of social media posts is even more staggering: With reach far exceeding social media, email has the potential to be a powerful communication tool. If we know how to use it. Unfortunately, email also has some potential issues.

Challenges Personal email plans, like the kind you get from Yahoo, MSN or Google, are created to send messages to small groups of people. Try to send a large group message and you run into trouble. Email providers track every message that 6

MinistryToday May // June 2015

passes through their systems. They don’t read them, but they measure: hh Number of recipients hh Percentage of emails opened

opening your emails ($10 a month) or Streak for Gmail, which is free. hh Track and purge bad addresses from your contact list regularly. hh Pray you don’t get banned.

Option 2: Email Marketing Service

hh Number of links clicked hh Number of undeliverable emails (bad addresses, typos, etc.) hh Number of emails marked spam Each of these areas has a point value assigned to it. Below a specified point value your email goes through. Hit the next level and your emails go into the junk mail folder. Exceed the final level and they label you a spammer and block your account. If you’ve ever fought to get your account unblocked, you know it’s not fun. My IT buddy has done it several times and it’s a long, ugly process.

Solutions There are two options to get around this:

Option 1: Church Email

hh Create a dedicated email address that is only used for church communications. hh Write your email. hh Format your content. hh Copy and paste names out of your contact list. hh Send the message to a small number of recipients, every five to 10 minutes, until your list is complete. (Every provider has different rules for number of emails and time between matching subject lines.) hh Use a tracking service, like Sidekick, to make sure people are

hh Import your email addresses. hh Pick a template. hh Write your email. hh Send your message. hh Let the service track opens, reads, clicks and bad addresses. hh Watch your email analytics to know what is working and what’s not. hh Contact tech support when you need help. Most likely, Option 1 is a slightly different angle on your current approach. Before you discount Option 2, take a look at the breakdown. If you have fewer than 2,000 email addresses in your list, MailChimp is free. You get access to their basic tools and analytics with options to upgrade if you need extras. They take the headache out of Option 1 and keep your email from getting flagged. And for the price, you can’t beat it. Another option that includes great video email marketing solutions is BombBomb for ministry. ChurchTechToday uses BombBomb for its email marketing solution; this solution mentioned offers integration with several church management software solutions out there such as Fellowship One, Church Community Builder, IconCMO and ACS which make keeping contacts in your email marketing system much easier. Email is the communication medium of choice. While I haven’t addressed the importance of writing engaging content, I hope this post helps you share your story in budget-friendly ways and avoid the most common technical issues.

Ryan Holck is a worship pastor turned graphic designer. He is the owner/designer at rad-ideas.com. This article originally appeared on churchtechtoday.com. © Istockphoto/TARIK KIZILKAYA


Ministry Today May/June 2015