Taking Christ into the digital 'streets' (News Release)
August 19, 2014
The 750th and final episode of The Good Catholic Life radio program
June 13, 2014
Interview: EWTN News Nightly with Brian Patrick
September 25, 2014
Insights from IHOM's Lisa Taylor and Sean Ater.
December 1, 2013
This is an additional resource for readers of Transforming Parish Communications.
Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Cincinnati (IHOM.org)
1. What impression (first impression) are you hoping to create with the IHOM website?
Social media is a key component of the New Evangelization and we wanted our website to showcase a vibrant Catholic community that works very hard to live by its Parish Mission Statement: “We are a welcoming Catholic community centered in the Eucharist, striving to live and share the Good News and grow in discipleship with the Lord.”
By using high quality photos, that feature a wide variety of activities and age groups, we wanted the visitor’s first impression to be “welcoming” and a community they could call “home.”
2. Please share details/insights in the way you organized your drop-down menu with 10 words with detailed drop-downs under each. What are the benefits of that approach?
Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish is a large and very active community with over 100 ministries. We wanted the navigation of the site to be intuitive to the visitor so that it could easily direct them to the multiple levels of information on the page. Our old website was organized around general categories that made sense to staff: Worship, Education, Faith Formation, Get Involved, Parish Community and Communications. On our new site we tried to organize our menu around the needs of the visitor. We chose “action oriented” categories such as: , that we believed would prompt more engagement by visitors.
3. What do you believe are the most important elements of a great parish website today?
We developed an acronym P.R.A.I.S.E. when building our webpage that identified the most important elements of a successful webpage:
Purpose: Why do you have a website? Does your website support the overall mission, vision
and goals of your parish?
Parish: What is “unique” about your parish? (Unique selling proposition).
People: How are You going to help Them? Are you answering their questions? Are you reaching outward into the community?
Photos: Do you have high quality photos to represent the culture of your parish?
Pastor: Could your pastor write a dynamic weekly blog or monthly topical message?
Reaction: What do you want the visitor to do when they get to your site? Explore? Join? Give? Is your site user-friendly and simple to browse?
Religious: How are you representing the beauty of our Catholic religion?
Relationships: How are you building relationships? On-line? Off-line? In the Parish? In the community?
Results: How are you tracking your results?
Audience: Who is your target audience? (Marketing to everyone is marketing to no one).
Awareness: Who is being served in your community by your Parish? Are you meeting the needs of your parishioners with your website?
Action: What is the “call to action?” Are you asking anything of the visitor to your website?
Inviting: Is your homepage inviting to look at? Does it invite the visitor to explore further? Is your body copy well written? Is the “tone” consistent throughout the pages?
Information: Do you have all the “basic” information on your i.e. Mass times, address, phone number and directions.
Inspiration: Do you include inspiring stories about your parishioners in either written or digital form? (Make your message memorable by placing it into a story).
Social Media: Is your site taking advantage of the latest in social media?
S E O - Search Engine Optimization: Are you taking full advantage of Search Engine Optimization? Are people finding your site? Once they find your site are they staying?
Search: Does your website have a “search” feature and a site map?
Evangelization: Is your site mission-driven or member driven? Are you using your site to evangelize the seeker and dis-engaged?
Engaging: Is your site engaging? Is your site cluttered or is the content focused? Will users be encouraged to make repeated visits?
Events: Are your events featured on your homepage? Do your events answer the; Who, What, When, Where, Why?
4. What is the role of the IHOM website in the parish’s communication and evangelization efforts?
The parish’s communications efforts are a key component of the evangelization mission of IHM. The webpage is one part of an overall communication strategy and was “re-branded” to complement IHM’s logo design. Other efforts include; utilizing print communications, e-mail, social media, press releases, a large exterior digital marquee, and verbal announcements. Although we have a variety of communications tools at our disposal – the message must always stay clear, consistent and Catholic regardless of the media we use.
5. What elements on the website do you think are most valuable to parishioners? What elements do you think are most valuable to newcomers/seekers?
It seems like people engage with a parish website much like they engage with the parish as a whole.
Actively engaged in the parish: These are loyal website customers. They will use it for just about anything that you offer on-line; information, feedback, sign-ups, on-line giving etc.
Nominally involved in the parish: These individuals use the parish website when they need information about: Mass times, sacramental information, or a meeting they are required to attend. They will use it when asked in a specific way: to sign up for an event or download a form.
Visitor/Seeker: Usually Mass times, directions, and general first impressions are the main elements that are important to this individual. A really well thought out Welcome Page is very important to the first time visitor/seeker and should engage them and prompt further exploration of the site.
6. What feedback from your parish community have you received about your parish website?
The feedback from our parish community has been outstanding! Our parishioners love the new look, navigation, and the opportunity to update their ministry’s page. The parish took great pride in winning the Catholic Parish Website of the Year contest and the response “outside” of our community has been great. We are getting calls from all over the country to ask for tips on how to develop an engaging website.
NOTE: Below is an email from our web developer Mark Buelsing. Mark is an IHM parishioner and owner of LetItShine.Biz – the web development company that created our site.
Last evening, I was out at a church office to work with them on their new website design. I showed them printouts of many church websites and was measuring their reactions and recording their inclinations. When I exhausted my printouts, they brought up the IHOM.org site on a laptop and raved about it for at least 10 minutes. They REALLY liked our site. In their mind, IHM is setting the standard for Catholic websites. It made my eyes teary.
Cool huh? Thought you would like to hear that.
7. What did it mean to you and to the parish community that your website was recognized as a national award winner by Catholic Tech Talk?
We were thrilled to make the top 10 list and then to be chosen as the first place winner, out of such steep competition, was truly a blessing. As a parish we believed we did accomplish the goal of creating a vibrant, engaging, and easy to use website. To be recognized, on a national level, for all the hard work we put in was the icing on the cake!
IHM’s website took almost three years to complete with input from IHM’s Web Ministry Team, guidance from the Parish Staff and final development by LetItShine.biz.
8. What general advice would you give to parishes that are planning a website upgrade in 2014?
In general most parish employees are unprepared for the task of creating an effective and engaging webpage. Make sure to tap into the expertise of your parish community and look at other webpages for inspiration. Do not hesitate to be ecumenical in looking at church websites. Some of our best inspiration came from evangelical Protestant websites.
9. Based on your parish's experience, what advice do you have for parishes who have yet to embrace Facebook?
BE NOT AFRAID! Yes, things can go wrong if you don’t have people dedicated to monitor and update your page. But if you are serious about evangelization, and you want to build community, you must consider utilizing Facebook. With that said, look before your jump into the world of Facebook. Ask yourself some critical questions first. How will the Facebook page fit in with your overall communication strategy? Who will administer the page? What content will you post? How will the page drive traffic to your webpage? How will you handle interaction on the page both positive and negative? Do you have quality pictures for your profile and cover photo? We took the time to think through and answer these questions before we actively launched our Facebook page. It is better to think it through on the front end, than to be playing catch up after the fact.
Submitted on November 22, 2013 to Scot Landry by:
Sean Ater Director Office of the New Evangelization Archdiocese of Cincinnati 100 East Eighth Street Cincinnati, OH 4520
Lisa Taylor Pastoral Associate, Director of Communications Immaculate Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Church 7770 Beechmont Avenue Cincinnati, Ohio 45255