Facebook Groups For Your Community in Crisis

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Join Katie and Kenny for this episode as they introduce you to Brandon Rodgers, from First West in Monroe, LA, who started a FB group (@NELANeeds) to help the community with services, resources, availability of goods and more during this time of quarantine. The Facebook group took off, and there are many great tips on creating a Facebook group for the needs of your community.
Facebook Group- @NELANeeds


Katie Allred:                           Welcome to the Church Communications podcast. I’m Katie Allred.

Kenny Jahng:                         And I’m Kenny Jahng.

Katie Allred:                           We want to help you become a better church communicator.

Kenny Jahng:                         And this is the place we’re going to talk about strategies and best practices for your church.

Katie Allred:                           Let’s get started. So this is where we’re at everybody. This is Brandon Rodgers from First West, Monroe, Louisiana and Kenny, churchcommunications.com fame. Katie Allred, also. So Brandon started a Facebook group for his community because of the needs from the coronavirus and it’s called… What is it called?

Brandon Rodgers:              It’s called NELA Needs. North East Louisiana Needs.

Katie Allred:                           Okay. And then in 24 hours it’s gotten 2,700 members.

Brandon Rodgers:              Yep. Yep. It’s crazy.

Katie Allred:                           Yeah. And I’m sure-

Kenny Jahng:                         Try harder, Brandon. Try harder.

Brandon Rodgers:              My boss’s wife and about six other people helped me start it. And it just, I mean, literally has blown up. Every hour we’re adding 150 plus it seems. So it’s crazy.

Kenny Jahng:                         What’s the name of the group?

Brandon Rodgers:              It’s called NELA Needs.

Kenny Jahng:                         Okay. So it’s not even corona specific.

Brandon Rodgers:              Well, it is corona specific.

Kenny Jahng:                         But I mean the title.

Katie Allred:                           In the description.

Kenny Jahng:                         The title.

Brandon Rodgers:              But in the descriptions it’s… If you were to go to our group, you would see NELA Needs, and then community response to the coronavirus.

Kenny Jahng:                         Okay. Gotcha.

Katie Allred:                           Okay. So what’s happened is you’ve got the news contacting you about it, which I think is huge.

Brandon Rodgers:              Yeah.

Katie Allred:                           That’s such a good PR opportunity for your church.

Brandon Rodgers:              Yeah. So-

Katie Allred:                           Yeah. You go ahead.

Brandon Rodgers:              Yeah. I saw the idea, the other guy in the group that you posted yesterday morning. I presented it to our pastor and our executive pastor. They were-

Katie Allred:                           I’m going to pause. Okay. So just so everybody has some hindsight, because we started recording after I talked about that. Andy King, he’s a church in Georgia. He started a care mongering group based on what I teach about reaching your community online. So he started a Facebook group for cares for leads. So I posted about it. I said, “Hey, this is working out really well for Andy. Other churches should do this for their community.” And Brandon started one. Okay. So keep going.

Brandon Rodgers:              Yeah. So I presented it to a couple of our senior exec folks, our senior pastor and others. And they were like, “Hey, this is wonderful. But what if we took the church out of it in the sense of is there a way that it could be more organic than it is? Hey, let’s make First West, our church, be the hero here, rather we make our neighbors and the people-

Katie Allred:                           The heroes.

Brandon Rodgers:              … involved the hero, on top of Jesus being the hero.”

Katie Allred:                           [inaudible 00:02:54].

Brandon Rodgers:              On top of hero being-

Katie Allred:                           At the end of the day.

Brandon Rodgers:              … the hero, too.

Katie Allred:                           Yeah. Well, first off, that’s really good. That’s something that I teach is not to make it about your church, but to make it about people because that’s how life change happens is these relationships that are reformed because of these needs. So what kind of needs are you seeing? Have you seen any needs met because of it yet?

Brandon Rodgers:              Yeah. So much panic is still involved in our community. So there’s still a lot of panic buying. So there’s a lot of information about where items are. So we’ve allowed people to say, “Hey, you can let people know where things are at store wise. If you go to a store and you see stock of something, let us know that it’s there.” But then as far as specific needs, yesterday, instantly we’ve had some food needs met. We had some families help just real quickly, like some monetary help just to get someone through the weekend. And it was all digital. So it wasn’t like, “Hey, we’re going to go and meet you up and hand you $50.” It was all done via Venmo and all of that. We don’t want to touch money in the group. We’re trying to set some really-

Katie Allred:                           Yes, I understand.

Brandon Rodgers:              … good boundaries and standards-

Katie Allred:                           [inaudible 00:04:16].

Brandon Rodgers:              … so that we don’t touch the money. If someone feels compelled… The biggest thing that we said yesterday, and we’ll continue to say, is that if you say you’re going to do it, then follow through. And if not, we’ll kick you out of the group, honestly. See a need, meet a need and follow through.

Katie Allred:                           Yeah. One story that I saw out of Andy’s group that I’ve been a part of now for 48 hours, I think, it was that I saw there was a woman who posted that she needed this very specific baby formula that was hard to find already. And that within 24 hours, 12 bottles of that formula appeared on her front doorstep, which that’s huge. Right? That’s so great. Yeah because no babies need to suffer [crosstalk 00:05:02].

Brandon Rodgers:              We had a baby formula, some baby food-

Katie Allred:                           Situation, too.

Brandon Rodgers:              … situation stuff too as well.

Katie Allred:                           Yeah. So it’s just important, I think, when you’re talking to the news to find those very specific stories because they’re going to want those.

Brandon Rodgers:              Yep.

Katie Allred:                           Yeah.

Brandon Rodgers:              That’s cool.

Katie Allred:                           Did you have any questions for us? What can we help you do?

Brandon Rodgers:              Yeah. I’ve helped you moderate the group for a long time. I’m one of the original moderators of the Church Communications group, let me say it the right way. But as things happen fast in scale, how do you guys maintain the chaos, but still help with engagement?

Katie Allred:                           Okay. So big things, easy things, are threads. You’ve seen Kenny and I start multiple threads this week that we are trying to funnel all that conversation into. There are some things that don’t go through that thread, and maybe it’s because I feel like it didn’t exactly fit. So we’re trying our hardest, though, to put everything into threads. It’s something that I do on a weekly basis anyways. Right? I do the what are you working on? What are… So if you can figure out ways to do threads, you’re going to see those trends appear in the next 48 hours, probably, of things that you can put into threads.

Katie Allred:                           And then I would make, like I did for the coronavirus at the top of our… I made a big listing of all the threads. If you can make a big listing of all the threads, I think that would be super helpful. Back in the day with form administration, we could do that easily. Right? Do you remember how those used to look? Right? You would click into each individual. You can’t do that in a Facebook group. So using the topics… I’ve seen you use the topics, that’s good, but I think the easiest thing you can do is maybe use the threads. And then of course using rules. Sometimes it’s going to feel like a free for all.

Brandon Rodgers:              Yeah, it definitely does right now. For sure.

Katie Allred:                           Yeah. I’ll be honest with you, it does for us too because nobody taught us how to manage a group during a pandemic. But I think using the same things. Right? You just said managing people’s expectations, setting boundaries, telling them exactly what this is for and how to use it. So Andy had set up some really good rules in his about using certain hashtags. Like hashtag news, hashtag-

Brandon Rodgers:              Yeah, we stole his hashtags.

Katie Allred:                           Yeah.

Brandon Rodgers:              [inaudible 00:07:23].

Katie Allred:                           So what are his exactly? What are they again? Do you remember?

Brandon Rodgers:              Well, the four that we ended up taking were the hashtag in search of, ISO shops.

Katie Allred:                           Right. ISO.

Brandon Rodgers:              Yeah. Shops, offer and news. So shops would be, basically, where supplies are and what things are open or what shops are even offering. And then offers are like errand runs. So I’m willing to do this for somebody. And then news, news is specific to our community. So if something comes out that we want to share, whether it’s a government official or something like that, we’re trying to actually get government officials to join our group to help-

Kenny Jahng:                         Yes.

Brandon Rodgers:              … message that-

Katie Allred:                           That would be good.

Brandon Rodgers:              … so that they could actually be the ones to deliver the news versus us hoping that the source of, whether it’s the local news or whatever, it’s coming directly from them. So that’s something that we’ve been trying to track down today.

Kenny Jahng:                         Those are the types of things I think you have to spend some focus on as the community manager. Our role is curation of content, right? Just like Katie was talking about, we’re creating these official threads for different, very tight topics. One of the things that you can do, honestly, is to potentially just interview some of those leaders. A lot of them are not going to be comfortable to do a Facebook live interview, et cetera. It might be just a phone conversation that you record and you feed them the five questions ahead of time, and then you just get them to do a phone conversation. You turn it into a video, like an audiogram. Right?

Brandon Rodgers:              Yeah.

Kenny Jahng:                         And then you post that as an update here. If you can do that-

Katie Allred:                           Yeah, or even write it.

Kenny Jahng:                         Yeah. Even write it, but I think that if you could do on a regular basis with all the different types of community leaders, and then offering them help to get that content out, that is going to be a huge service to the community.

Katie Allred:                           Yeah. And resharing this stuff too that’s already coming out of the outlets that is like appropriate and vetted information. That would be good.

Brandon Rodgers:              Yeah. So one of the goals, too, is… Our governor, Governor Edwards, who’s a Democrat, and that doesn’t matter because everybody has a different political leaning, but he said yesterday in a conference call that there’s no daylight between him and the federal government. So the idea is that regardless of our political leanings and feelings, we’re in this thing together.

Katie Allred:                           Together. Yeah.

Brandon Rodgers:              Yeah. So one of the concerns that I do have is because we have such a opinionated world, and you guys have seen it in the church communications from a theological standpoint, that you’ve got all over the map views and beliefs. How have you kind of maintained that conversation?

Katie Allred:                           Turning off comments, deleting people or removing them as soon as that starts. It’s okay during this time to turn off comments. I’d say with every news posting that you do, I would just turn off the comments, honestly. You can leave them on maybe for a little while, but if it ever gets out of hand, don’t ever feel like you’re out of control because you’re not. You can stop it. So that’s usually what I try to do. Kenny, do you have any other thoughts?

Kenny Jahng:                         I mean, you’ve covered a lot of it. Again, I think your role is facilitation and curation. So don’t be afraid… And you’ve got to have transparency, right? So you need to show what the house rules are for the group. Just like using the ISO and all those things. That’s all culture of the group. So for you to enforce it, people will be looking for you to have set the boundaries and expectations and then enforce them. And that’s all it this. I think that’s just one of the things.

Kenny Jahng:                         The other thing is bring in volunteers. There are many people here that have nowhere to go and really want to help. I think you have to be careful. Katie and I, we’ve experimented with different people even. Letting people join the team, getting [inaudible 00:11:43] the team offline, that kind of stuff. I think this is really important to figure out how to do that fluidly, but you want to do it in a way where you’re protecting the public, the group, the whole community. As long as you prioritize their needs first as a guiding principle, I think you’ll be okay.

Brandon Rodgers:              Yeah. Cool. So I mean, I know that the church communications group is quite large. I’m sure that there’s been push pull to make that even more micro versus macro, so like regionalize that or whatever for context. That’s already been a conversation. What are your thoughts on that for that?

Kenny Jahng:                         So there’s several different ways that we are trying to address that. First of all, I don’t know if you saw today, but we did a massive coworking hangout today. We opened up a Zoom room. It’s still available and we’re trying different online video conferencing platforms. We’ve had as much as, I think, 40 something people in the room at one time and people come and go. That type of community is what you’re trying to do. That’s how you take the big room and make it smaller. Right? Because you got 23,000 people in the group. The people who care who want connections are going to be the ones that show up.

Kenny Jahng:                         The second is I think trying to find much more niche oriented conversation devices. So online summits are something we are really actively working for. Right? We just did one for women leaders. We’re doing one for live streaming for churches. We’re going to stream in our group on April 2nd and April 27th through 29th. We’re going to do one specifically about Instagram. We’re thinking of doing things for small churches as well as large churches. I think the large churches are covered for the most part, but doing an active conversation or webinars around small church needs, very specifically in particularly, then allows people to self select and come self identify themselves, come out of the woodwork and then participate in those types of resources and community activities.

Katie Allred:                           Yeah. So for you on a practical level, I think if you need to start threads specifically for those areas or you need to start a topic or whatever so you can tag people in those areas, I think that might be a good idea. Starting topics so you can tag areas, right? Because you’re saying these people live maybe an hour or two hours away from each other. Right?

Brandon Rodgers:              Well, they don’t live that far away. But, I mean, once you leave West Monroe area, it starts to get pretty rural.

Katie Allred:                           Got you.

Brandon Rodgers:              I mean, the furthest away, as far as parish or County goes, is just we’re in the center and everyone around us. But it could be an hour because there is no easy way to get anywhere else from here.

Katie Allred:                           Yeah. So just figuring out ways that you can connect to those people. Two, I think what Kenny was saying about the doing like Zoom rooms for them so they can talk to each other, I think, would be really meaningful. I would like try to figure out ways that you can make them not talk about the virus for a while. If there’s a way that you can just like… Maybe there’s people who are, obviously, in need of community, but they don’t want to state that. Just say, “Hey, we’re all hanging out having lunch together. If you want to hang out and talk like, we’re going to be here talking.”

Brandon Rodgers:              That’s cool.

Katie Allred:                           That might be a good idea just so that y’all can like communicate and stuff. So yeah. [inaudible 00:15:30].

Brandon Rodgers:              Sweet. That’s cool. That’s cool. The final thing that I think I have would be… I mean, I know I’m a moderator for the Church Communications group. I know that you guys have always said, “Do what you can when you can,” versus, “Don’t feel like you have to live here.” And we’re 24 hours in and I’m-

Katie Allred:                           Living there.

Brandon Rodgers:              … already feeling the rub of people feeling like-

Katie Allred:                           Welcome.

Brandon Rodgers:              … we have to live there. And it’s okay for me and for the admins. We’re like, “Well, we got to own this. We started this thing.” But other people that are involved, how would you encourage those that you bring in to help facilitate the actions of the group without making them feel like they have to be here all the time?

Katie Allred:                           I would start another mod group for them because I do think that’s helpful to communicate. And then just set your expectations for them and communicate them often. Right? I don’t want you to… Yeah, exactly what I said. Right? I don’t want you to feel like you live here. This is not your job, but we’d like that you help us and we know that you love your community. This is part of loving your community. So thank you for helping us. I would set some rules like… When I first chose most of my mods, I gave them some basic direction of let these kind of people in. Don’t let these kind of people in because they’re spam and robots. And then when they’re in there, if they do any of these kind of things, we don’t put up with it. So just block them, right?

Katie Allred:                           So there’s probably going to be some businesses and some shady activity coming your way. So just say, “You have my permission.” That’s the most important thing. We actually talked about this in marketing today when I was recording the lectures. Procedural fairness, right? So you give them permission to act on your behalf and say, “It’s okay for you to block somebody if you feel like they’re not being kind.” Maybe come up with some very… They’re not pertaining to our rules and they’re not being a nice human being.

Brandon Rodgers:              Correct.

Katie Allred:                           It’s okay for you to kick them out. We don’t have to put up with them. And I’m sure they’ll message you and be hateful because that’s what people do. But Jesus said there’s going to be some haters.

Brandon Rodgers:              Yep. Awesome.

Kenny Jahng:                         One of the things though, I think, and this is where I think you can probably find some partners in this within the community, is that especially if you are able to recruit volunteers, other moderators, other helpers and stuff like that, there are two things that you really need to pay attention to as a community leader. One is appreciation. The other one is recognition. They sound alike, but they’re not. They’re two quite different things and you need to do both.

Kenny Jahng:                         So one is recognition and that is publicly thanking them, pointing to them, celebrating them. Right? Volunteers are our heroes. All this stuff wouldn’t happen without them. So you might take one of them a week and just put up a post or an interview just so that people get to know them or something like that to humanize them and really publicly recognize what they’re doing for the community. That’s the first thing.

Kenny Jahng:                         Second one is appreciation, and this is where you might be able to get some partnerships [inaudible 00:00:18:43]. That’s to directly let them know your gratitude for their generosity. That’s where a gift certificate comes in handy or some treat or food delivery or gift card or something that lets them know how important they are to the process. So appreciation, recognition goes a long way. And the best way to start the appreciation thing, honestly, is a handwritten note. Handwritten notes is worth more than two, three gift cards, I’m telling you.

Brandon Rodgers:              Cool. Awesome.

Kenny Jahng:                         Let’s see. Today’s March the 19th.

Brandon Rodgers:              Yeah.

Kenny Jahng:                         How many people are in your group right now? Let’s timestamp it.

Brandon Rodgers:              On March 19th, I’m pulling it up now.

Katie Allred:                           I would start a Google sheet, too, because group insights only go back so far. So I’d start a sheet.

Brandon Rodgers:              Yeah. Again, I’m looking at… Whoa, that’s not right. That can’t be right.

Katie Allred:                           What is it now?

Brandon Rodgers:              It can’t be 7,200. It can’t be.

Katie Allred:                           Is it really?

Brandon Rodgers:              It can’t be.

Kenny Jahng:                         What’s the [crosstalk 00:19:56].

Brandon Rodgers:              I’m looking at group insights. Maybe I looked at the wrong spot.

Katie Allred:                           Hold on, let me look.

Brandon Rodgers:              I looked on my phone.

Katie Allred:                           Hold on. Let me look. I’ll look, I’ll look. Hold on. That might be how many comments you’ve had. Yeah, you have 2.8 thousand people.

Brandon Rodgers:              Yeah. So 2,800.

Katie Allred:                           2,800 people. 2,855.

Brandon Rodgers:              Awesome.

Katie Allred:                           Which is awesome. Yeah. And then I bet you’ve had that many comments in the last 24 hours.

Brandon Rodgers:              Yeah, it’s crazy.

Katie Allred:                           Which is wild.

Brandon Rodgers:              It’s wild.

Kenny Jahng:                         If you approve me, there’ll be one more person in the group and we’ll keep it going. It’s great that the engagement is there. It’s great that you are asking even these questions to get in. What city do you live in? Are you willing to help those who may have a need? Do you agree to abide by the rules of not talking about politics? I think that’s great three golden rules to get into the group.

Brandon Rodgers:              Cool.

Kenny Jahng:                         Yeah. Keep on going. I mean, I think this is definitely something… Again, once you become a platform owner, you have the ability to share that with other people who need that voice. So whether it be the school principals, whether it be even just small businesses, it might be doctors and hospitals, it might be just the public officials. Those are the types of places that many of those people right now have no idea how to get out the word because they are not digitally native like you are. And something as simple as telling them to send you something as an email that you can post and share it with the almost 3,000 people in this region is going to be widely appreciated.

Brandon Rodgers:              Cool. That’s a great idea, too.

Kenny Jahng:                         And not just negative stuff. Right? You want positive things, too.

Brandon Rodgers:              Right, right. For sure. Yeah. So there’s not been a confirmed case in our area yet. So in our parish and surrounding parishes. Most of the cases are down in South Louisiana, New Orleans. But I mean it’s a matter of minutes, I would say.

Katie Allred:                           Time.

Brandon Rodgers:              Yeah. Before they actually… The scope of how we feel today, where social distancing is still a piece. I’m working in the mornings at home, and then coming in the office in the afternoons just to kind of help. But there may be times where the only way we can see each other is through Zoom or something like that. So I appreciate the ideas and the concepts from you guys.

Katie Allred:                           Well, be safe, Brandon.

Brandon Rodgers:              I will, I will. I appreciate you guys very much. Okay?

Katie Allred:                           Yeah.

Kenny Jahng:                         Absolutely.

Katie Allred:                           Well, thanks for hanging out with us. We appreciate it.

Brandon Rodgers:              Thanks Kenny. Hey, it’s nice to meet you, by the way, Kenny. I’ve been following you for a while, but it’s nice to put a face to the name for real.

Kenny Jahng:                         Yes, absolutely. We definitely need to hang out more and congratulations on NELA Needs. We hope you do more for the community over the next couple of weeks, Brandon.

Brandon Rodgers:              All right. Thank you.


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