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Using Printer Technology to Effectively Communicate
By: Kevin M. Hunter

The realities of the communication ministry are coming at all churches. From the tweets of the popular celebrities, to the every presence of Facebook, communication to the generations has been changed forever. Instead of ignoring or minimizing the impact of these messages, churches should embrace these realities in their communication strategies but not forget the tried and true printed material.

A few ads from a large paper company, Dotmar, have reminded the readers of the longevity of the first printed Bibles from the 1400s. The point is 25 original printed copies still exist today. Think about the longevity of the word of God lasting more than 500 years. Put this in the context of your communication ministry what message do you want to leave a legacy like this? The reality of the electronic media of today is the quantity usually outweighs the quality of the messages.

Has your church given up on the printed word and moved to an electronic communication strategy? Do you think your messages are clear enough, loud enough, and relevant enough to cut through the thousands of messages bombarding your audience on a regular basis?

From a personal experience, I receive, on average, 35 e-mails from three different accounts on a daily basis. I must admit it is sometimes difficult to truly get the message from these important sources while sifting through the clutter of my inbox. The answer is not simply delete and move on; it is to find a way to manage the important messages and not get bogged down in the clutter. One strategy I use is to print out the messages I truly want to dig into and understand. I recognize the iPad and smart phones have made this much easier to do without prints, but if it is printed, it is truly read.

As a church, the strategies and decisions you make regarding your communication strategy are vitally important to make sure your congregation, communities, and staff members know the facts, activities, and goals of the organization. The most successful strategies do not draw a line in the sand and take an absolute position on one communication method; a blended strategy is developed that uses multiple media outlets to get the message across.

When choosing how to print your church communications, several options are available and serve a variety of needs. The traditional printers and copiers come in a variety of shapes and sizes to meet the variety of needs for your communication strategies. These devices can do simple printing all the way up to managing a true document flow strategy.

As a member of my church and this industry, my advice is to stay focused on what your true needs are for these devices and not be talked into something you do not need. The strategy of being a good steward with the resources God has given us is one that I encourage all of the churches to follow.

Before you simply decide on a printer or copier, make sure to check out some of the new and old technologies available today. Everything from high-speed digital duplicators to new inkjet products can make a big difference for your church. These products help make the transition to full color easier on the budgets and provide speeds, features, and functions that other technologies do not. The decision is not just about choosing the right device for your printing needs; it is about developing a communication strategy and then executing that strategy.

A few things to think about when developing your communication strategy is who your audience is, how do they communicate, and where will your message be heard? These questions will inevitably lead you to a conclusion that a multimedia strategy is needed. Using Facebook, Twitter, and other electronic media will get the quick hits you need to keep your topics at the front of someone's understanding and conscience.

The printed message will most likely still find a place in your overall strategy, but the question is where. One strategy that was shared by Yvon Prehn, industry expert on church communications, is to think about the most centralized communication tool in the families of your members. Now before you answer, this is not the TV, computer, or the cell phone it may seem that way sometimes.

The one place all family members go on a daily basis to nourish themselves and do a little searching for items to fill their needs is the refrigerator. Think about it. The fridge is the central place that all members of the family go at some point during the day or week. Why not take advantage of this opportunity and get a message to everyone? Fridges have gotten fancy over the last few years, but I do not think these devices have digital billboards on the outside yet. What these items do have are magnets that can hold great printed pieces on the fridge.

If your church leverages this communication tool by printing relevant messages to your members, it will be read. This is just one example of how you should think creatively about your communication strategy and how it will be implemented and the impact felt at the family level. It will make you think about the choices for communication tools.

Communication is all about touches. When choosing technology to meet the needs of your audience, make sure you not only look at your budget, but think about the touches you can do for the investment made. Some printing technologies allow you to produce documents at a low cost that can stretch your budget dollars further.

The business of a church is not to save money but to invest in areas that help achieve the goal of sharing God's word with as many people as possible. Instead of making a technology investment based on how much money you can save, think about how many more times you can touch a person with a printed message by making a different choice in the output device.

Inkjet printers, duplicators, laser printers, and copiers all have advantages to their technologies the key is to find the right one that matches your communication strategy.

The last tip on finding the right technology is to look for a trusted partner. Many members of your organizations have experience in buying or using various devices. Ask around and you may be surprised to find a member of the copier and printer industry in your congregation. This wealth of knowledge can be a true resource in making the best decision for your church.

Kevin M. Hunter is executive director of RISO, http://us.riso.com.

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