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Insightful feedback in communications survey

First slide

Last December, I wrote about the launch of the Communications Survey on behalf of the Department of Communications at the Diocese of Arlington. The survey was emailed to all in the diocesan database, extensively shared on social media, inserted into the Arlington Catholic Herald (ACH) print edition, and promoted by the parishes. Within the Department, we have the Catholic Herald, social and digital media, podcasting, website management and media relations. Most of these areas of focus were addressed in one way or another by the survey. 

Upon my arrival last August, Bishop Burbidge and I discussed his idea for a communications survey to help us understand our current readers/viewers/listeners, and identify needs and opportunities for growth in the work of communications and evangelization. 

As I stated in December, roughly 7,000 people took the survey and we logged thousands of comments. I personally read each and every comment, gleaning whatever trends I could. Bishop Burbidge and I reviewed the results of the survey together and discussed the feedback we received. I then presented the results to parish Pastors, the diocesan Priests Council, directors of the diocesan offices, and the staff of the Department of Communications. Each of these groups offered profound insight and counsel. 

For those who responded to the survey, please know how grateful I am for your responses, as this information is critical in our discernment of the best ways to serve Bishop Burbidge’s ministry, our parishes and diocesan entities, as well as the faithful of this wonderful Diocese. 

Starting with some basic demographic information of respondents, 91 percent attend Mass weekly or daily. While it is good to know that so many within our reach practice the faith, it illuminated one limitation of this survey — namely, that it was not helpful for reaching those beyond the pews. Knowing the best ways to evangelize less-engaged Catholics requires national statistics, pastoral input from priests, and more creative marketing through digital media. 

Key stats

—    59 percent female and 41 percent male

—    39 percent of ACH readers said very important

—    40 percent have read four out of the last four editions

—    63 percent read for 10 or more minutes

What’s “Very Important” to you?

Within the survey, respondents were asked often to reflect their attitudes toward certain types of news and communications offerings of the Diocese with the following options: “Very Important,” “Somewhat Important,” “Not Very Important,” and “Not at All Important.” 

—    73 percent said that their pastor is a “Very Important” source of information about the church and/or the Diocese. This response was consistent through all age demographics.

—     73 percent said the bulletin was a “Very Important” source of information (this was only slightly lower for those 18-44 years old).

—    And 61 percent said that inspiring faith articles are “Very Important” to them and 57 percent said they found the Church’s views on societal issues to be “Very Important.” 

The top three areas of interest to respondents were “church news and events,” “stories of faith and inspiration,” and “adult faith formation.” This is reassuring news as the areas in which the Diocese is investing the most effort is to keep people informed about opportunities to grow in faith and get involved in the church.

Millennials and young families

Among those who are between the ages of 18 and 44 years old, some interesting statistics were revealed:

—    84 percent attend Mass weekly or daily

—    21 percent said the print edition of the ACH is “Very Important”

—    Predictably, while diocesan social media is only “Very Important” to 12 percent of those 55 and older, those 18-44 had a response of 36 percent

—    Nearly 70 percent said that the church’s view on societal issues was “Very Important,” indicating that millennials and younger adults have more interest in going deep in their faith than they are often given credit for

—    47 percent have read zero of the last four editions, while 22 percent have read three or four of that last four editions

—    This age group was interested equally in local Catholic news, religious columns, and news about the Vatican/Pope Francis as other, older age demographics

—    48 percent said the newspaper format is “effective” with many adding that more digital media is needed, but 35 percent have “no opinion” about the effectiveness of the newspaper

—    44 and older: 69 percent said the newspaper format is effective, with far less asking for more digital content, but 22 percent have “no opinion” 

The information within this article is but a portion of the data we were able to glean through the overall results of the survey as well as through advanced segmentation of the respondents by age demographic, Mass attendance and whether they filled out the survey digitally or through the printed insert in the Catholic Herald.

While nationally, the trend toward digitizing newspapers in order to save on paper and postage costs continues, there was not a clear directive from the faithful that the Catholic Herald should cease production of the print version. However, there is strong encouragement to increase the digital presence of content with the Diocese and the Catholic Herald

With both news and content aimed at increasing one’s knowledge of the faith being of prime interest to the faithful, the Diocese will ensure these are the focuses of our newest means of communication. 

In addition to the refocusing of digital content from the Catholic Herald, aside from the print publication, Bishop Burbidge has launched a new podcast called “The Walk Humbly Podcast” in which he addresses some of the most popular issues in the news and answers questions from the faithful.

On the World Day of Communications, May 13, the Department of Communications will launch the “Searching for More” podcast, which will feature long-form interviews with guests about a variety of faith-related topics. More information on this podcast is forthcoming. 

Lastly, we will continue to develop videos of various types to draw the faithful deeper into a relationship with God and to highlight some of the powerful events and programs of the Diocese. 

Again, I am extremely grateful for all who offered feedback in the Communications Survey. The information you submitted will continue to be analyzed and understood so that we can provide digital and traditional content that enriches the soul and informs the faithful of events and news of the Diocese. 

May God continue to bless you and those you love.

 Atwell is Chief of Communications for the Diocese of Arlington.

Find out more

To see the survey results, go to arlingtondiocese.org/2017communicationsurvey.

To ask a question for the Walk Humbly Podcast, email info@arlingtondiocese.org, and please include your first name and parish.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018