Maurice Harris, Diocesan Communications Minister
As diocesan communications minister, my ongoing focus is to increase internal communication within the Episcopal Church of Vermont, and to increase our ministry of evangelism through external communication. My responsibilities include the day-to-day communications planning and execution for the wider diocese, as well as serving as coach, trainer and advocate for parish volunteers and staff responsible for communications.
My husband and I reside in Brattleboro, Vermont, and I enjoy traveling throughout the diocese and beyond to provide local support and gather our stories. If you’re not already a subscriber, please sign up to receive the Mountain newsletter, and submit your own reflections for publication. In the menu above, please select Communications > Newsletter to learn more.
If you are a member of the press seeking comment from a representative of the Episcopal Church in Vermont, please contact me. Be sure to include your name, publication and deadline. Thank you.
The Episcopal Church in Vermont
Tel: (802) 451-0249
Resources, Tips and Tools for Church Communicators
On this section of my Ministry Support page, I’ve provided links to resources, tips and tools as a follow-up to my meetings with parish communicators across the diocese. Feel free to contact me directly for additional support.
As Episcopalians, we seek, name, and celebrate Jesus’ loving presense in the stories of all people – then invite everyone to MORE. Here are a couple of resource that may assist in your evangelism efforts online:
Breaking in the Habit Media, a Franciscan production, maintains a channel of curated YouTube videos on topics ranging from techniques and gear to analytics and business.
The Episcopal Church Digital Evangelism page contains useful links that you may wish to share online – or use as a source of inspiration for your own original content.
SOCIAL MEDIA – ‘FRIEND & FOLLOW’ RECOMMENDATIONS
Connect with The Episcopal Church in Vermont, affiliated organizations, and the wider Episcopal Church on Facebook by liking and sharing these Facebook and Twitter pages.
Facebook has proven to be an effective communication tool for many Vermont parishes. At the request of our church communicators, here is a link to Facebook tutorials for those seeking to enhance their skill: https://www.gcflearnfree.org/facebook101/
PHOTO & VIDEO RELEASE FORM
It’s a good practice to have permission before posting anyone’s image, especially when there are children in the photo. Try this Photo Release Template that can be customized for your congregation.
FREE COMMUNICATION TOOLS
This documents contains a list of my favorite free communication tools. This list is likely to change, so please check back periodically.
WEBSITE PLANNING HELP
In order to develop a website that fulfills your church’s goals, break the project down into distinct phases. This Web Design Project Plan may prove useful. Feel free to contact me for additional support.
MEDIA RELATIONS SUPPORT
The following resources are designed to assist church communicators who are responsible for contacting news media.
Vermont Media List: This robust list of media sources, including television stations, public access and commercial radio, and newspapers and magazines is made available courtesy of Vermont.com.
How to Write a Press Release: Learn how, when and why to compose an official announcement to news media. View a sample release, and download a free template.
How to Write a Media Advisory: A media advisory alerts reporters and editors to your event by providing them with the five Ws—what, why, who, when and where. Media advisories should be sent the day before and/or the morning of the event.
Boilerplates: These standard descriptions for the Episcopal Church in Vermont and Rock Point may be used in related marketing, public relations, and journalism, such as press releases and other announcements.
IDEAS TO SHARE
Many of these ideas are inspired by my visits to our Vermont parishes. Some are suggestions submitted by other church communicators. Check back periodically, as I may curate this list from time to time.
Include your community partners on your website.
Are there community groups that meet regularly at your church building? Consider including them on your church website! For example, you might create a page of “Community Partner Links” with brief descriptions of each group and/or a link to the organization’s web page.
Oftentimes, we offer our church buildings for use by community groups that lack a physical space of their own. How about offering them an online space, as well? Community partners that lack their own website might appreciate a dedicated page on your church website.
Such practices can be an effective way to communicate your church’s connectedness to the local community. It can also mutually improve online search results for your church and your partner organizations.
Post sermons online.
Posting sermons online is easier than you may think. With a free service like Soundcloud, you can upload audio recordings directly from your mobile phone or computer. No special skills required. Consider sharing sermons on your website and in social media!
Remember, your “audience” is not everyone.
Whenever I host a web design session, I ask, “Who is your audience?” Church groups typically reply, “Everyone!”
It’s not that simple. While it is quaint to assume that everyone is—or should be—attracted to your church website, failing to identify your primary audience will hinder the effectiveness of your online communication.
Take note of the demographics of groups that are most likely to engage your website. What are their ages? Where do they reside? What are their values? Factor these and other considerations into the design of your online communications.
Far too often, congregations develop their websites with their members (the internal audience) in mind, and they forget to ask themselves, “How does our website communicate with visitors and non-members (the external audience)?” Your primary audience for a church website should, with very few exceptions, be external. This does not mean that you should ignore your members. It means that you will need to strike a balance, lending higher priority to those who have not yet experienced your welcome.
Use your website to grow your distribution / friends lists.
Consider including links to your newsletter subscription form and social media pages in the footer of your website. This simple act can dramatically increase your church’s email subscribers and social media followers.
Apply for Diocesan Grants and Loans.
Websites, A/V equipment, and other communication-related necessities are vital ministry tools that cost money. If you’re looking for a way to fund your communications ministry, check out the Diocesan Grants & Loans page, and apply.
Click these links to download the Episcopal Church in Vermont logo in common JPG and PNG formats. Please contact me if you require vectors, such as AI or EPS, or alternate versions, including monochromatic formats and horizontal layouts.
2017 Perspectives on Communication: A Reference for Communicators in the Episcopal Church in Vermont
Originally published as a takeaway for the 2017 Church Communicators’ Workshops, this pamphlet is meant to address a “hot button” issue for parish communicators identified that year. A limited number of print copies is still available. Please contact me if you’d like to receive one.