The Internet's Best Practices for Ministry

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Showing posts with label Email. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Email. Show all posts

How To Get Out From Under The Information Crush

Our lives and ministries are constantly inundated with tons of information, emails, and communication - all finding it's way into multiple, digital inboxes. Communication is coming at us from dozens of different directions. Email inbox. Twitter DMs. LinkedIn Messages. SMS. And the list goes on and on.

Because as ministry leaders we have to face the daily onslaught of information, it is important to remember and apply several key best practices in handling all that information and communication. Here are a couple of thoughts....

First. Try to have all your inboxes flow into to the same place. It is too difficult to keep on top of and always be checking multiple inboxes. Now although I don't always like the idea of having even more email come into my inbox every day, I like the idea, even worse, of having to be on top of multiple inboxes increasing the risk of missing important communication. Therefore, it is nevertheless a good idea to have all your inboxes forward and flow their communication into a single email inbox that you'll be dedicated to checking consistently.

Second. Because you are going to be getting more email, you need to have in place a strict rule and practice to only handle each email once! This is key. You must process and deal with your email instead of letting it loiter and hang around in your inbox. The purpose of your inbox is to be a place to process and deal with email. Email must be acted upon. Here are 6 possible key ACTIONS that each email will fall into.

  • Deter. If the email is unimportant but it keeps finding its way into your inbox, unsubscribe, mark it as spam, or add it to a block list. 
  • Discard. If the email is unimportant and needs no action, go ahead and delete it, just get it out of your inbox. Since most email clients have almost limitless email storage and fantastic search capabilities, it is unlikely you need to discard, but rather the next option will suffice.
  • Drawer. If it’s important information but needs no action, archive it or file it. 
  • Delegate. If it’s important but the email requires the action to be done by someone else, forward it to them. Yet it is important to put the email, delegated task, and open loop in a place that you are able to track and follow up on. I recommend the Active Inbox plug-in for Gmail which does this really well.
  • Do. If it’s important and you can do it in a few minutes, just act on it. Get it done and out of your inbox.
  • Date. If it’s important but you can’t do it now, add it to your calendar. Always add important things to your calendar, not just to a unspecific to-do list.
As you use these 6 D's for processing your inbox, it should help you get out from under the information crush that we all find ourselves fighting against every day.

Who Will Win The Battle Between Email And Social Media?

What is the better, more effective way to communicate with your church/ministry/organization? Is it email? Or is it social media?

There has been a debate going on for the past couple of years. Some say that email is dead and that the younger generation doesn't connect via email anymore. Others say that email is a commodity you can own and control, while social media is "rented" property, continually the victim of the fickle social media provider. I think it's a faulty dilemma to pose having to choose. Both have strengths and weaknesses. Both have a valuable presence and role in your communication strategy.

Your organization should be intentional with both email communication and active & present on several social media platforms. This infographic below compares the two, with both their strengths and weaknesses, in a side by side comparison.

Email Marketing

The Challenge Of Email Communication

Email is a part of our life.  We use it for everyday church and ministry communication. Yet using it properly is still a challenge for many.

Here is a light hearted video which illustrates some of the challenges we still face as we attempt to communicate through email.

Email Is Still King

Even though there are now so many channels for ministry leaders to communicate, such as Facebook, Texting and Twitter - no communication tool has yet to unseat email.  Yes, email isn't cool and it seems so last decade, but email still is the primary and preferred means of communication for people in your church and ministry.  Email is unavoidable. The question then becomes - how do I manage and use email in order for me to be the most productive.

MailChimp For Churches

MailChimp is my ministry's preferred solution for creating and sending compelling email communications. I have recommended MailChimp to my ministry associates, leaders and many others. Why? Because it is easy to use, powerful and cheap!  In fact, if your church or ministry has less than 2,000 people (subscribers), it’s free.

MailChimp put together a useful guide for churches (and ministries) – it’s calledMailChimp for Churches‘. 

Now called Mailchimp for NonProfits!

If you are not using really may want to consider doing so today.

The Challenge Of Email

Is email evil? No not necessarily, but it is certainly a distraction. And it can become a distraction to the most important and valuable aspects of your ministry, especially if you don't have a strategy. Read this excerpt from an article called, Managing Distraction: How and Why to Ignore Your Inbox:
"Today’s relentless email flood could steer you away from high-value work and even out of work entirely if you don’t learn defensive strategies. That sounds obvious until you hear that a British study found that half of all information workers respond to an e-mail within 60 minutes of receipt. That’s no strategy at all, unless you consider crossing items off your colleagues’ To Do lists to be your highest priority. Taking that approach is so literally mind-numbing that the study further concluded that overdoing email can be as detrimental to your IQ as smoking weed."
(ht: Forbes )

Your Email Year-In-Review

Curious to know your email behavior and usage?  How much email did you have to process last year?  Who were your biggest senders?  Who did you communicate with the most?

This free analysis from ToutApp is a great resource which will give you an overview of how you are using your email.  Check out mine and HERE and to get your free report as well.

Five Tips To Get People To Open Your Emails

At a time when everyone’s inbox is flooded with messages - it is more important than ever that people within your church and a part of your ministry are opening your emails.  Here are a couple simple tips that will increase the probability that your important emails will get noticed and opened.

1. What’s the message about? Make sure your subject line accurately reflects the content of the message.

2. Keep it short! Many mail platforms, especially mobile ones, don’t support more than 50 or 60 characters in the subject line. Think micro-Tweet!

3. Where’s it coming from? The “from” address tells your recipients a lot, and they’ll more likely open mail from an address they recognize. Keep it consistent, and make sure it’s clear it’s your organization reaching out to them.

4. Deliverability is key. Make sure your subject passes muster with spam filters – if you are using email marketing software like MailChimp they can help you avoid words and phrases that could trigger them, but use common sense as well.

5. Put the horse before the cart. Try writing the subject line first, or at least keep it in mind as you craft your message content, rather than leaving it until just before you hit “send.” It’s a great way to focus on what’s important about your message.

(ht: FrogLoop)

How Times Have Changed!

(ht: Geeks)

How To Be Rescued From Drowning In Email

We are awash in email....SAVE US!

Go over to The Email Charter and look at the 10 Rules To Reverse the Email Spiral, support it and share it with others.

These are common sense rules that every ministry and church team would benefit from learning and implementing. 

10 Rules For Email Etiquette

1. Be concise.

2. Communicate “action steps” first, not last.

3. Number your questions.

4. Make the way forward clear.

5. Include deadlines.

6. Use “FYI” for emails that have no actionable information.

7. Tell them that you’ll get to it later.

8. Don’t send “Thanks!” emails.

9. Never send an angry or contentious email.

10. Never “reply all” (unless you absolutely must).

(read the whole post at the 99%)

Don't Monkey Around With Your Email Communication! (Actually Do!)

A couple of weeks ago I was helping to teach a Social Media and Ministry workshop, and during our discussion of email marketing and communication, someone suggested MailChimp.  Up to then, I had been using another email marketing service and hadn't given MailChimp much thought.  But then a couple of days later I was talking to someone I respect in the IT space and he was raving about MailChimp - needless to say my curiosity was peaked, and I had to give it a try.  I am sold!

Here are a couple of reasons why:

1. MailChimp application for iPhone (hoping for an Android one soon) - mobile access is essential.
2. Social Media integration such as letting your readers 'like' your campaigns from their inbox, and auto posting your email campaigns directly to your Facebook page or to your Twitter stream.
3. User friendly web based interface - it is so easy to use
4. Extremely easy to use autoresponder and attractive templates right out of the box
5. Widgets such as Rapportive widget (don't know what that is, then you need to check it out!) and their Adobe Air app called "Chimpadeedee" which allows you to sign up people to your list from a computer run kiosk.
6. Free for under 500 subscribers, pay as you use is available - which is great if you have a small ministry/church
7. Integrated with Google analytics.
8. The upshot is that MailChimp has a lot of cool bells and whistles, and is continuing to innovate into the mobile arena, with social media and is increasing it's power and reach through integration with other like minded applications.

Because I have become such a fan of MailChimp, I have donated some of my ad space on the sidebar to showcase them for the next 60 days - so let it be clear, this post was not ad sponsored - I have merely become a raving fan of MailChimp!  You need to give it a try.

Out Of The Office??

You know the "I'm out of the office until blah, blah" automatic response emails that you can set up in Outlook, Gmail, Apple Mail, or other email programs when you're traveling or on vacation?

According to Phil Cooke, his advice: Don't use it.

If you can't afford an assistant - or at least a Blackberry to track your emails when you're traveling, then don't use anything at all. The auto response was designed way back when very few people could afford laptops or PDA's to check email on the road. But today, when it comes to perception, it's an out of date technique that reveals you either:

1) Don't have a staff or assistant

2) Can't afford a PDA, Blackberry, iPhone, or laptop to check your emails on the road.

3) Are so anti-technology that you don't care about your business or personal relationships that much.

4) All of the above.
Either way - very few people use them anymore, because it doesn't make you look very professional... Not to mention that people get annoyed when they receive them. A much better approach is to condition your associates, family, friends, or business relationships, that email isn't an "instant" communication method. If they need something ASAP, either text or call. Then you can stop sending the auto responses.

My only concern about Phil's point is how do you condition the "world" not to expect an instant reply when they send an email. For instance, when I am on vacation, I want people to know, that even though you can send me an email, don't expect an instant response, because I am ON VACATION. Now I think Phil's point is valid if you are simply traveling. In this day and age, we should have the means to track and respond to email while on the road.

What do you think? How do you handle your email while traveling? Or while on vacation?

(ht: Phil Cooke)

Snooze your Email

I just came across a helpful little program today - Hit Me Later

I use gmail, and there are times when I am not ready to take an action on an email that I've just received.

But I do need to process the email nevertheless and get it out of my inbox.

Most of the time I am "starring" it - which indicates to me that it is important and because I can't take an action on it now, I'll need to come back to it.

The problem is that I have to go periodically to my "starred" folder and always check, review and look through the starred emails and determine which of them I need to immediately take action on.

What would it be like to "snooze your email" like you snooze your alarm clock?

You get an email, but you know that your are not ready to take action on it. Snooze it. Let it be resent to your inbox at a later time. Maybe that is a couple of hours from now, or even days.

The program to do this is called "Hit Me Later".

Check it out, it may help you be more productive with your information flow.

How To Deal With Loooooooong Emails

I have posted before on how to get a quicker response from your email, but too many times the emails that you may receive are the length of a novel, that you get so bogged down reading and responding to them. Email is an essential means for you to communicate with your staff and ministry leaders, therefore here are some tips in order to cut through those long and laborious emails.

Step 1: Determine who it’s from

The amount of attention you need to pay an email will depend mainly on who it’s from. A potential client detailing the kind of work they require will need a lot of attention. A long request for advice from someone you’ve never heard of (usually the most common kind) can be processed quickly and painlessly with the following steps.

Step 2: Scan until you can answer one question

“What is this email about?”

Most long emails are questions delivered in an extremely round-about way. They can often be broken down into two segments: 1) key questions and 2) unnecessary detail. If your email appears to fit this bill, you can move to Step 3.

Other types of long email include thanks/positive feedback, constructive criticism (or its evil twin, long angry rants).

Scan the email until you can sum up its purpose in a sentence — for example, “They’re telling me they like my portfolio and found it inspiring,” or “They hate my guts because of that post I wrote.” Then respond to the sentence you’ve defined, rather than the email as a whole.

Step 3: Look for questions

Scan a long email looking for question marks. These are specific points which require action from you. In most cases, you can ignore unnecessary detail and focus on questions. But before you focus only on the words you need, you’ll need to implement the last step.

Step 4: Find keywords

This will allow you to zero in on the issue that you need to address.

(ht:: Anywired)