Episcopal Life to end partnerships with dioceses

The Rev. Jan Nunley reports at her blog, Jawbones that due to budgetary concerns diocesan partnerships with Episcopal Life will be discontinued.

Many dioceses have shut down their own papers to go with Episcopal Life. Now they are left in limbo with “some counseling.” Nunley writes,

… the communications director for The Episcopal Church has submitted a new budget to the Program, Budget & Finance Committee of the General Convention for her department. I’m informed that “everyone expects revenues for the next triennium to be way down,” hence the budget revisions.

The rationale for the new budget explains that:

+ Episcopal Life will be reduced from a 10-times a year newsprint newspaper to a quarterly magazine format, with emphasis on features

+ Printing partnerships will be discontinued. (Dioceses will receive “counseling and advice” on how to “restructure” their individual diocesan communications efforts.)

+ The Ambler (editor’s note: Pennsylvania) Episcopal Life (editor’s note: business) office will be closed and the personnel cut from 3.5 to 2.

I’m told that, true to longstanding tradition, the Board of Governors of Episcopal Life was not consulted, nor was the Board of Episcopal Communicators. Because we’re all about collaboration and transparency.

Budget rationale below:

Budget rationale 2010 – 2012

This revised budget reflects the structure of the Office of Communication. It represents a transition away from a strictly news bureau model – meaning one comprised of newspapers, newsletters, and responses to news reporter inquiries – to a strategic communications model which will proactively enable the growth of Church membership and support.

Episcopal Life

Although the form of Episcopal Life’s main print publication will change, it will retain its responsibility to reflect the wide spectrum of the church, to provide a forum for robust debate, to report on current church issues and to give expression to a range of voices.

Up-to-date news, feature and opinion content will continue on Episcopal Life.org, but the print publication will change from a monthly newspaper to a four-color, feature-focused quarterly magazine that will inspire and evangelize. It will continue to be available by subscription, but will no longer be customizable by participating dioceses. Customizable resources that we will provide to the dioceses, along with the printed quarterly, could include a website template, e-newsletter template, and reduced rate for on-demand and live webcasting. Consultation and support will also be given to dioceses to help them through this transition.

Staffing for E-Life will be an editor/writer, 2 writers, a business and subscription manager, an advertising manager, an art director (new), and a half-time writer/layout artist. There will also be a part-time Spanish-language writer (new). The Spanish language writer may also contribute to Episcopal Life online. The art director will also design other printed materials for the Church.

The online publication will continue to deliver the daily news of interest to the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. It will undergo a redesign and will develop revenue through an online classified ad section and perhaps some subscription content.

Staffing for E-Life online will be an editor/writer and a web assistant (new) to post stories, video and photos. Writers from the quarterly will also contribute to Episcopal Life online. There is also some funding available for freelance writers to augment the work of the writers for both publications.

Corporate communications

The disciplines of crisis management, media relations and earned media or story placement, corporate announcements, and reputation management are critical given the size and nature of our organization and its issues. Many opportunities to tell our story are currently missed, especially for earned media, because of current staff limitations.

Corporate communications will be staffed by a corporate communications officer (new), a public affairs officer, a public affairs assistant (full-time from the current half-time position), and a part-time Spanish-language public affairs officer (new). In addition, an outside agency will assist with specific media relations project work.


In 2010 the digital department will complete the redesign of episcopalchurch.org and implement a social networking strategy. In 2011 and 2012 this work will evolve and grow. A digital designer and a developer will be responsible for the redesign of Episcopal Life.org. Digital also includes the video-taping and editing capability for our live and on-demand webcasting. Most of the work that digital creates is shared with the wider Church. With a budget that does not permit television or other advertising, the website becomes our most important vehicle for telling our story widely. When effectively utilized, it will become our most powerful tool for evangelism.

Staffing will include a director, 2 web designers (1 new), 2 web writers (2 new), 2 web developers (1 new), a multimedia producer/editor, a multimedia design engineer, and a web producer. Additional support in 2010 will be needed from an outside agency for information architecture as the site’s re-design is completed.

Episcopal Books and Resources

In the second half of 2009, the fulfillment function of EB&R and the mail room were consolidated, which will yield efficiencies. (Please note: These changes are not incorporated into this draft for the Office of Communication; necessary consolidation from the administration section of the draft budget will need to occur at GC). During the triennium, we will carefully consider the roles and objectives of the bookstore and fulfillment to determine the best strategic path for 2013-2015. This is a conversation that reaches beyond the Office of Communication.

Staffing will include a general manager (who also serves as the operations manager for the Office of Communication), 2 bookstore sales associates, an accounts payable and accounts receivable specialist, an order fulfillment clerk, a mailroom manager, and 1 ½ mailroom assistant positions.

Office of the Director

In 2009 a focused brand strategy project will be completed that will include an audit of all brand work done to date by the Church. It will also yield new target audience and trend information, and result in brand strategy and positioning statements. To implement a unified corporate identity across all media utilizing the brand strategy in 2010, a design consultant will be needed. We will also continue to monitor social networks and receive strategic consulting from an outside agency that was begun in 2009.

A few notes:

For financial reasons and for evangelism reasons, we cannot maintain the status quo in the Office of Communications. The warm welcome, intelligent inquiry, and ancient traditions of The Episcopal Church are appealing to many – to recently-arrived immigrants in the U.S., to questioning college students and others seeking a new or different spiritual home, to those seeking a vocation rather than just a new job, and to neighbors around the world looking for creative approaches to old economic and social injustices. We can engage and amplify very effectively if we invest in digital communications, social networking and grassroots work.

The most important work is the work we will do to evangelize and retain. This work includes developing resources for congregations and dioceses, completion of the redesign of episcopalchurch.org, implementation of social networking and brand strategies, media relations work that results in impressive earned or news media placement, thought leadership events, and the creation of fresh content to broadcast initially online. It is also our goal to create a department that goes beyond translation services to truly collaborative cross-cultural work.

The Church Center creates hundreds of printed pieces and videos during the course of a year. The Office of Communication can be of great service in upgrading the quality of these pieces, in modeling unity through a unified look, feel, and message, and in helping people transition to digital resources where appropriate. This will be the primary focus of the Mission Communication Officer, whose budget we request be transferred from the Mission Section to Communication at GC. She has been physically relocated to Communication and her work has already been incorporated into the Office of Communication. The budget needs to be adjusted accordingly.

This budget proposes the minimum number of additions needed, while making careful cuts where it makes strategic sense. If approved, we will be thoughtfully lean. This approach will slightly reduce overall costs, while increasing significantly the ability to execute against an overall strategy. It is a necessary and important step if the Office of Communication is to move forward and be of greatest service.

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