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7 Tips for Catholic Communicators during COVID-19

Updated: Apr 2, 2020

We could have never fully prepared for this moment. We are getting bombarded with a lot of information very quickly. Our lives have been uprooted and we are physically cut off from the world. All the while, you have a ministry to oversee to meet the spiritual needs of hundreds, if not thousands, of people in your community. Sound familiar?

I have observed a lot of communication over the last couple of weeks and decided to compile my list of tips and tactics to consider with how to manage the communications for your Catholic organization, whether it be a parish, school or ministry, now and into the foreseeable future as we face this COVID-19 quarantine:

1. Be strategic

Keep in mind, you are an organization that families *want* and *need* to hear from right now for the sake of their spiritual health. Provide regular updates relevant to your organization amidst the evolving situation to exhibit hope and confidence amidst the unknown and to establish your brand’s reliability in this moment of uncertainty. Present your information professionally and organized in a way that is easy to find and understand. If you don’t step up, your community can very easily turn elsewhere.

Here are a few tactics to consider:

o Create a landing page on your website placing all your communication and resources in one place for ongoing reference. This should not all be placed on your homepage, as it will quickly become cluttered.

o Rather, create a pop-up on your homepage directing site visitors to the designated landing page with all your relevant resources and/or tools.

o Push out emails and/or text messages to alert your followers of new information; direct people to the landing page.

o Participate on Facebook and/or Instagram - if you don’t have an account, get one; if you’re already there, use it.

2. Be timely

Communicate early and often. Everyone is looking for guidance and input on what to do in these uncertain circumstances. When there is something new to share, do it sooner rather than later so you’re ahead of the curve and provide answers before questions or frustrations arise. Explain the plan for further/additional communication and details as they become available; meaning, the initial communication may not be perfect. Honesty and transparency go a long way right now.

Here are a few tactics to consider:

o Share what you have when you have it, but ensure accuracy first.

o Use the necessary tools to communicate across all platforms and audiences in the proper order. Perhaps that means using your intranet for internal audiences first, then email/text to your engaged community second, then website and press release for the broader public, as appropriate.

3. Be present

We can maintain social distance and still be sociable. Technology has created that opportunity for us. Discover simple ways to keep your community connected, especially so their spiritual routines remain prevalent. Involve your highest level of administration to engage with your community often.

For example, I am an adjunct professor in the St. Louis area and am currently on three different higher education institutions’ email list serves. I have been receiving daily (or more) emails from the presidents of each organization with relevant updates to keep the entire community informed and connected.

Here are a few tactics to consider:

o Share a regular communication that is delivered at a consistent time each hour, day, week, etc.

o Set up a reliable, ongoing presence so your organization is always “available” to people. This could be framed as “office hours.”

o Be as visual as possible through video and “live” events.

4. Be creative

Identify unique-to-you methods to remain in touch with your community. Use technology in new ways; don’t let it scare you. Be transparent about your learning curve. If something doesn’t work the first time, learn from it and try again.

Here are a few tactics to consider:

o Livestream daily Mass (Bonus: If you’re a parish with a school, share a weekly children’s homily).

o Share daily doses of inspiration and hope, pray the Rosary and/or Divine Mercy Chaplet through video.

o Set up Facebook Live or Zoom prayer groups, praise and worship and/or children’s school lessons to keep your normal community together.

o Identify unique ways your organization can give back to the community right now – empty schools are sharing toilet paper, closed establishments are donating food or space, etc.

5. Be positive

We are Easter people full of hope for what is to come. Uncertain situations can create fear and anxiety for many people. Now is a moment to remain upbeat, hopeful and positive, particularly if you are a religious organization representing Christ in some way to your community. Focus on what we do have rather than what we don’t.

Here are a few tactics to consider:

o Lead every communication with a positive tone - this could be as simple as a personal story, mission moment or smile (on video).

o Turn to Scripture for guidance in providing a message of hope.

6. Be flexible

None of us have gone through this before; we’re learning together. Be transparent about what you know (don’t assume anything) and share the facts. If you’re trying something new, celebrate your innovation even if it doesn’t go exactly as planned. Have a contingency plan just in case.

Here are a few tactics to consider:

o Try new things – if it works well, stick with it; if doesn’t work well, change it up.

o Identify ways to partner with similar organizations to make your offering more robust. For example, three local parishes collaborated on live-streaming their Sunday Mass and possibly other activities.

7. Be tactful

It goes without saying that this is an unprecedented time. People are scared. People are confused. People need confident, caring leadership. They may turn to you for spiritual guidance, advice, or just an inspiring word. Provide what people need right now and let tomorrow worry about itself.

Here are a few tactics to consider:

o Lead any communication with how you can serve your community. Hold off on what your organization needs right now unless it’s dire, or your mission is rooted in service. Even so, communicating your needs should come secondary to how you’re meeting the needs of others – this will draw them in. This is a big moment for social responsibility.

Many prayers to you all in your ministry! kp

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