6 Skills Every Communication Director Needs

In yesterday’s post we talked about how to find a great communication director for your church. Due to the mad retweet love it’s obvious this is something many of you are either currently dealing with or at least thinking about.

communication skill set

Today I want to go a step farther and talk to you about the skill set that person needs to be successful long term.

As I mentioned before, I’ve recently been going through this exact process with one of my clients in an effort to find them a great candidate for Director of Communication. Even though our search ads were very clear about what we were looking for, we got all kinds of crazy responses. Apparently anyone with a degree in english thinks they are qualified to do communications. Not so fast.

There’s way more to it than that. So I’d like to share some thoughts on what the ideal skill set is for this position. I’m going to put them in order from most important to least important, so in case you have to settle for less than the complete package you’ll know what your priorities are.

  1. They must be a great communicator – Oh really Mark, you think being a good communicator is important to be the director of communications? Yeah, I know, a little on the nose, but here’s the reason. They might have the most impressive resume’ you’ve ever seen, with every other skill I’m going to mention and then some. But if they can’t put two coherent sentences together in the interview, DO NOT HIRE THEM. I know this seems like a no-brainer, but how many times have you seen the President of the US pick a Press Secretary who has all the right skills on paper, but is horrible talking to a room full of people? It happens. Don’t be that guy.
  2. They need to be able to write – This is no small thing when you think about the volume of announcements, social media, blogging, newsletters, scripts, press releases, etc… that they may have to produce. But most churches, when they hire this position, fail to fully explore this aspect of the candidates. Do yourself a favor and have them submit some type of writing samples. Give them an event with all the logistical details, and have them do a press release, a series of social media posts, and an announcement. Make sure it makes sense, that’s interesting to read, that it makes you want to attend, etc…  Don’t skip this step. Don’t make the opposite mistake of #1 and assume because they speak well that they can also write. Doesn’t always work that way.
  3. They need to be a big picture person – What I mean by this is that when they go into a staff meeting, they can see the issue on the table (the event, message series, whatever) from each staff person’s perspective and how it might affect them. In addition they can also see how the issue might affect a lay person in the seats, or be perceived in the community, etc… This skill alone is invaluable. It means they can see shortcomings, keep things from falling through the cracks, and raise the bar of ‘team’ for your staff. It also means they can usually anticipate problems and actually ‘lead’ the other staff members to plan better and further ahead.
  4. They need to be good at strategy and systems – The bigger your church is, the more important this is. You have to have guidelines and deadlines for how and when announcements are submitted, when things have to be designed, produced and distributed, recruiting and training volunteers to help with various tasks, etc… the list is long and the bigger your church is the longer the list. You want this person to be creative, but they can’t be a hot mess. They have to be able to be organized and on time. As they go so goes the rest of your church.
  5. They need to understand how social media works – This is not the same as them knowing HOW to post to Facebook or Twitter. This is way bigger. They need a working knowledge of who uses which platforms and why, how to use the platforms to build momentum, how to create conversations online, how to use the platforms strategically – combining the church’s official accounts, the staff’s personal accounts, etc…
  6. They need a working knowledge of graphic design and video – In a perfect world you would want this person to have a high level of skill and creativity in these areas where they could actually do the work. And while they may be few and far between, those people are out there. But at the very least they need to have a good understanding of how these processes work, how long it takes to get things done, what the key creative positions are and how they work together, etc… Nothing worse than having a person in a position of leadership in this area who has no idea how it works. That just leads to frustration, high turnover, and poor quality.

I could add many more things here and get more and more specific, but these are the most important skills you need your communications director to have. I would love to hear from you guys about other things you have found to be super important in this role. Let’s continue the conversation on Twitter, @MarkClement.

Tomorrows post will be all about the things I coach new communications directors to do.