I do not talk a lot about my job or what I do for a living here on my blog. There are a lot of reasons for that, the biggest reason being this blog is an outlet and a place of creativity for me so I prefer to keep my work OUT of it when I am writing at My Living Canvas and keep the postings more about my personal ideas, interests and views.
However, sometimes people have trouble understanding what I do as a Director of Communications for a church. While this is a job with many different hats, a good deal of what I do has to do with online communications between my church’s multiple community campuses around the Washington, DC area.
Recently we launched a brand new web presence to better reflect that our church is “one church in multiple locations” and since that time I was interviewed for an article in Church Executive Magazine about online communications at a multi-campus church. As I wrote out my answers to the questions posed to me I realized that I had a pretty good, albeit LONG explanation of what has been keeping me busy at work for the past year. This isn’t all I do, but a large part of what I do is help our multi-campus church communicate better internally and externally, and much of that communication happens online.
So I thought I would post the Q and A I had with the writer here in case anyone was actually interested or curious about what types of things I work on at my job. Please be SURE to know that I do not do this alone. I manage a team of 6 excellent design and print professionals and collaborate with partners at each campus to pull off our online communications strategies. And the most remarkable thing to note is that we do NOT have a web developer on staff. All six of our web sites were built by our friends at Site Organic. While I desperately wish we did have a web developer on our staff it has been great to work with our dedicated vendor who built six successful web sites that help us communicate who we are online.
You can read the article as printed in Church Executive magazine by clicking here.
1. What are the top communications challenges facing you, as a multi-site congregation?
Externally, our biggest challenge is helping the community wrap their minds around what it means to be multi-site. For example, our Loudoun Campus staff often struggle to communicate with people in the Loudoun community, unaffiliated with our church, that they actually have a building where worship services are held *in* Loudoun County. Because we started as a mega-church with a decent brand recognition due to our “Not a Sermon, Just a Thought” radio commercials, people know who we are, they just don’t understand multi-site.
Internally, our biggest challenge is two fold… with our attendees it’s the challenge of getting them to stop thinking of our first and largest campus as “the mother ship.” We truly want all campuses to be “created equal” and its difficult to manage that change in thought when the other campuses are smaller than the first campus.
Second, we have internal communications challenges from a staff perspective in keeping us “one church.” Brand or Identity Management has become quite interesting now that we are so large. Its difficult to force too many rules because campuses and ministries need flexibility. So to respond to this challenge our team created a website – http://identity.mcelanbible.org where we make the logos and images available for download and have posted all identity standards. The idea is that folks will be familiar with the standards and refer to the web site as a guide when creating communication materials.
2. Why does it makes sense for each of your campuses to have its own Website?
They way we describe our campuses is that we are not identical twins, we are fraternal twins. We have a lot of the same DNA on the inside but we look different on the outside. Therefore, we are committed to reflecting that with our web presence. Our campuses strive to remain “linked but distinct” as we grow and allowing each campus to have its own web site allows that campus to communicate distinctly about their specific ministries and services while maintaining a link back to a corporate site which serves as the home for all core DNA information.
3. How do you manage content quality across many locations?
Content integrity threatened to be a major issue for us in the beginning. Fortunately we were able to work with our friends at Site Organic to dream up a way to feed content from the central campus site out to the individual campus sites. This way, I can create one page in our central site and make that page available to the other campuses for syndication. The content can only be edited in one place – the initial place where the content is created, making content management pretty easy. Other wise we would be creating content again and again for every campus page.
4. Where do you draw the line between giving a campus its own freedom and personality online, vs. maintaining one consistent “brand” across the entire organization?
This is a really interesting question. After launching our first campus we realized that we needed to define what was “central” and what was “campus specific” in terms of identity, communication, look and feel etc. So our executive leadership team appointed a task force to consider all the questions that existed relative to freedom verses autonomy for campuses. This team comprised of individuals from all campuses and ministries, spent 6 weeks discussing and debating and finally made a proposal of identity standards for our church to abide by and after reviewing our proposal the executive team approved our identity standards. We then took the standards and developed a web site to serve as a “branding” guide for all campuses and ministries.
In terms of where we actually “draw the line” – I think we lean more towards campus autonomy than corporate control. Our Communications Team understands the need for flexibility and we want to create opportunities to “give ministry away.” We created identity standards and made them available online for campuses/ministries/volunteers to use as a resource. Our team never wants to be a stumbling block and if a volunteer has the skills and can follow the identity standards we want to allow our people to use their skills to serve the Lord.
We created a family of logos of which each campus has their own variation, we moved from a “design heavy” look and feel to a light, clean “corporate” brand that serves as a palate for all other campuses and ministries to express themselves. We wanted a centralized “core identity” that tied all our campuses together yet didn’t encroach on or overshadow the unique elements of specific campuses or ministries. I think our newly launched family of web sites is a good representation of that. We all communicate off the same palate but what goes on the palate is often unique and distinct to that particular campus or ministry.
Also, for the items and materials that are corporate we clearly communicated what those were, why they were corporate and made it very easy for campuses/ministries to understand that we don’t require too much to be corporate, only the items that are central to the McLean Bible Church experience. The collateral we require to be “corporate” wont surprise you – letter head, business cards, email autsigs, web site layouts/templates, what we teach, our vision and core values booklets and building/directional signage. Our weekly bulletin is standardized in terms of design (look and feel) but the campuses are allowed to decide how to fill out the insides of the bulletin.
We’ve really worked hard to find the right place to meet in the middle, keeping our campuses linked but distinct and ensuring that our visitors receive the same core value driven MBC experience not matter which campus they attend
5. Any success stories you’d like to share?
I think I shared several in the questions above, but I can’t miss the opportunity to brag on our new logo. After launching our first campus we knew we had to change our logo because it was not truly representative of our multi-campus structure. Because we had some brand recognition already through our radio ministry, our sense what that the general public associated the old “MBC” logo with our Tysons Campus (the first and largest of the campuses). We needed to find a way to break away from that mind set so that when the public hears McLean Bible Church they have a way of identifying our church as one church in multiple locations rather than one large church in one part of town.
The primary objective was to create a logo that clearly indicates that MBC is “one church in multiple locations” as well as allow each campus to build its own unique visual identity easily recognizable in the current and future communities where MBC has a campus presence. The inspiration behind the design is the “diamond” shape of the District of Columbia. The MBC mission is to make an impact on secular Washington, DC with the message of Jesus Christ and Pastor Lon has often referenced our multi-campus strategy as creating a “spiritual beltway” around the District of Columbia. This logo mark is intended to be symbolic of that mission with the shape of the District as the starting point.
The three separate sections of the logo mark point “out” and “up” from the center of the image symbolizing that our focus is not only on the actual District but also the entire DC-metropolitan area. Each piece of the logo mark is a different shape and color, symbolizing that our campuses are “fraternal” twins as opposed to “identical” twins, meaning that while the core MBC DNA for each campus is the same, each campus will have its own unique flavor or personality. The space at the center of the mark creates a “cross”, a subtle indication that Christ is at the center of who we are and everything we do in this city.
The color scheme is designed to be current and colorful, yet not too colorful, as to stick with colors that work well together and are pleasing to the eye for both males and females. We also have the challenge of choosing a color scheme that prints well and looks nice on a computer screen. We believe we have accomplished this in the new logo color scheme.
Each campus will have their own campus specific logo for campus specific communications and related materials. The logo will be a variation of the primary MBC logo, with minor changes including one accent color and the addition of the campus location under the church name.