Presentation on theme: "Communications Research Report prepared for Mission & Society Forum 18 May 2009."— Presentation transcript:
Communications Research Report prepared for Mission & Society Forum 18 May 2009
Research Objectives To discover how effectively central diocesan structures communicate with deaneries, parishes & individual worshippers. To ascertain how key communication tools such as the Pompey Chimes, diocesan website, diocesan mailing and other materials are perceived within the diocese. To suggest ways in which diocesan communications might be improved.
Methodology 1 At this stage, we conducted a pilot study, involving 2 qualitative focus group discussions held at Peninsular House on 23 rd & 27 th April. Group 1 comprised: parish magazine editor youth minister churchwarden reader PCC treasurer Group 2 comprised: hospital chaplain lay General Synod & Bishop’s Council member parish priest church school headteacher Curate (NSM) Plus 1 individual depth interview with a parish priest. Geographical spread: Rowner, IOW, Portsdown, Cowplain, Portchester, Wickham, West Meon, East Meon, Blackmoor, Swanmore
Methodology 2 Since April 9 th, we have been running a survey on the website, which site visitors are invited to take part in. To date, we have gathered 28 responses. This included: User profile (relationship with the diocese, age and gender) Content areas of interest Ease of finding what you’re looking for Opportunity to comment on the site
Overview Respondents were positive about the communications team under-taking this review and hoped it would precipitate some changes. There was a desire for church communications to be of a high professional standard.
Overview Diocesan office staff are highly regarded, and found to be helpful. Networks are thought to work really well as channels for communication among specific groups. Youth ministry materials were praised.
Overview Church communications in general were criticised for being wordy and demanding a high level of literacy. Flow of communication down from the diocesan office to parishes to the pews: a potential bottle-neck is thought to be clergy in-trays. Perhaps as a consequence, some communications were felt to not always reach those who would be interested. A feeling exists that sometimes issues are raised and then nothing happens…
Overview Can diocesan office could target some of their communications more widely? This may help to take some of the pressure of information dissemination away from clergy. It was also suggested that the website could be used to better effect for this purpose. More information was requested for new incumbents.
Summary - Pompey Chimes The Pompey Chimes is highly regarded. It is widely felt that its’ role is encourage and enthuse, and it is considered to deliver this to a high standard. It is thought to be aimed at a church audience, and the majority of respondents struggled to see its’ potential for use as a mission opportunity. A minority of respondents would like to see Pompey Chimes move out of its comfort zone, and address more controversial issues. Further ideas included: A youth section with youth reporters Not always good news stories More opportunities for feedback
Summary - Diocesan Website The diocesan website is seen as tired and in need of a revamp. There is a particular problem with the navigation, which was found to be unintuitive and long-winded. A further perception about the website is that it is not kept sufficiently well up to date. The usefulness of the faith section was queried. Some site users are completely exasperated! The website is thought to be mainly aimed at members of the diocese searching information, and the website survey confirmed this.
Summary - Diocesan Mailing The diocesan mailing is recognised for what it is – an opportunity to keep clergy and readers up to date with information they might otherwise have missed. Nevertheless, most recipients of the mailing find it hard work to digest. With perseverance, there is the recognition that it does contain very interesting and useful information, and that there would be value in making it accessible to a wider audience. Ideas included: Sending out a contents page by email with hyperlinks through to more detailed information. Putting some of this information on the website. Sending it once a month instead of bi-monthly.
Summary - Other Materials The online Cycle of Prayer was felt to be quite awkward to use, and consequently it was felt that it might be disregarded by many parishes. The online Directory was much used and appreciated. The Kairos Buildings materials (DVD and booklet) were welcomed for their quality, which was felt necessary to support this type of initiative.
Communications in the diocese It was widely appreciated that the diocese is undertaking this review: “It’s been good to think through. It makes me think about issues about communicating in my own parish” “I think it’s positive the diocese is wanting to improve communications” However, it was hoped that this exercise would precipitate change: “Once the review is completed, will it change and in which year!”
Communications in the diocese Diocesan staff are generally considered to be responsive, helpful and encouraging. Networks (especially the Readers, PCC Treasurers, Spirituality) are considered to work really well. Is there a need for a church wardens’ network? Youth ministry communications were well regarded: Grabbing one’s attention with the use of icons/graphics Visual relevance to the subject Not being too wordy (as many church communications were thought to be)
Communications in the diocese Communication within parishes is felt to vary considerably, with information often seeming to get lost between the diocesan office and the pews: “Some churches have good systems for sharing and passing on information” “Sometimes things are flagged up, in others, things are just left on the table and it’s sheer chance you hear about things” Communication may not reach all of the relevant people: Key Lay individuals may miss out e.g. if not on “additions to mailing” lists. Many people were interested in the training course leaflet and events posters, but had never seen them. This may be due to “bottle-necks” occurring in clergy in-trays. Perhaps a wider approach to targeting could be considered?
Communications in the diocese Church communications can be very wordy and assume a high level of literacy, and understanding of church terminology. Joining a synod was mentioned as an example of encountering church jargon. The first term had commonly been difficult, as one acclimatised to the terminology and way of working. It was felt that issues/concerns can sometimes be raised (at many levels within the organisation), but nothing happens as a result. Nevertheless, it was recognised that in large organisations such as the diocese, communications are bound to break down sometimes: “you’re dependent on the next person in the chain, messages don’t always get there”
Communications in the diocese The new diocesan structure has made it harder to find people’s contact details, unless you know which team they are in. More information was requested for new incumbents. Portsmouth was seen as being not relevant as an identifying focus for people in some parts of the diocese: Although not a communications issue – this may be something that communications can be used to address? One suggestion was that parishes could encourage parishioners to attend Portsmouth events. The 75 th Anniversary celebrations in 2002 were remembered as being hugely successful at drawing the diocese together.
Communications in the diocese It was felt that we should aim to be as eco-friendly and paperless as possible. It was also strongly felt that our communications should be to a high professional standard: “an archdeacon once said, if it’s for God it’s got to be the best, and I think we’ve got to do the very best that we can”. “in this modern age people expect well produced things and the church shouldn’t just only ever produce scrappy bits of paper”
Pompey Chimes - overview The Pompey Chimes is well liked and has some very staunch supporters: “Absolutely excellent, first rate” “Definitely the best means of communication we’ve got” Many positive comments were made, such as: Easy to read, not too heavy, accessible Keeps people informed Interesting and varied articles Lively Good to celebrate successes IOW gets “a good crack of the whip” Better than other dioceses’ equivalent publications Helps the ordinary parishioner to learn more about the diocese Appears as the 4 th item on a Google search of Pompey Chimes – “not bad!”
Pompey Chimes – overview Aspects of the Pompey Chimes that are particularly liked include: Articles about individual people and their stories, especially faith stories Articles about people that are known to them The Last Word – “some of those are lovely” Articles that explain things e.g. church language New appointments Getting ideas from other parishes e.g. Kairos Buildings initiatives
Pompey Chimes – who is the target? The majority of respondents felt PC was mainly aimed at church people, “the average congregation”. One respondent thought that PC was probably aimed outward as a mission opportunity, “but in reality it’s church members” However, there was recognition that some stories run in the PC can be of interest to the local media. It was widely felt that in its current form, the PC would not appeal to young people, who would most likely find it dull.
Pompey Chimes – what is its’ role? Many respondents subscribed to the view that one of the main purposes of PC was to: “encourage and enthuse people”. This was widely felt to be a good thing: “It’s good to be encouraged as a faith community, we don’t half get a bashing in the secular press”. “It does focus on the positive which is a really good thing about it” Fosters “a good diocesan feeling. You can be a bit isolated in your church or deanery, especially on the island”. “Most churches are challenged in their own environments so to have encouragement is really valuable”. Another respondent felt the role was to: “communicate mission and disseminate information. I think it’s doing it fairly well”.
Pompey Chimes – a mission opportunity? As to whether it could achieve a wider brief as a mission opportunity, this thought had not occurred to most of the respondents. Surprise was expressed: “that had never occurred to me, I’d always thought of it as an in- house paper” (priest) Most thought it would not be of interest to a wider audience in its current form: “it’s difficult enough to get it into church members’ hands, let alone get it wider” “if people in churches aren’t going to pick one up for themselves, there’s very little chance they’re going to pick one up for their next door neighbour”. If it were intended for a wider non-Christian audience, respondents felt both content and means of distribution would need to change.
Pompey Chimes – how is it read? Whilst a couple of respondents did claim to sit down and read it cover to cover, the majority appear to “flick” through, read the headlines and perhaps a couple of articles that interest them. A copy may be kept for future reference, but is often thrown out straight after reading. The view about how PC is digested by parishioners varied. Some respondents say that copies are “snapped up” in their churches, whilst others felt they literally had to put them in people’s hands, otherwise they would not go: “people really did not make the move from here to there to pick one up”. It was felt that some parishes, perhaps rural ones, or those some distance from Portsmouth, may be harder pressed to see its relevance to them. A “hard core” of readers was thought to exist.
Pompey Chimes – how is it distributed? Churches use a variety of means to announce and distribute the PC: In some churches, its’ arrival is announced from the pulpit, on pew leaflets and by sides-people putting into the hands of the congregation. One enthusiastic reader made a point of handing it out with hymnbooks. In that parish it had become a standing joke that “you’d better take one or …x… will give it to you!” Others may not announce it, but aim to make it prominent when it comes in. One parish fold and insert into their monthly magazine. Some parishes did not flag it: “once there was a whole page about a family from that parish but it wasn’t mentioned at all” Despite many proactive measures, it was generally felt there were often copies left, and one parish had recently reduced its’ numbers. One respondent raised the question of whether it could be distributed to a wider audience through a village community centre or newsagent…this thought begged the question: “who would pick it up in those places…?”
Pompey Chimes – constructive criticism A minority of respondents expressed the following points of view: Too positive? “It has been said that it sometimes it reads a bit like Pravda – always full of good news, with not much opportunity for argument or debate”. This respondent called for stronger editorial comment, and asked for more provocative (as opposed to simply newsworthy) articles, believing this might help to stimulate readership. “Hearing about other churches’ good news stories can be disheartening” if your church is not doing so well. Too safe? “I’d like PC to be more edgy sometimes…let’s push those boundaries a bit”. “I’d like more controversial issues raised now and again as a discussion point”. Too bland? “There’s a blandness about it…it’s trying to keep everyone on board”. Too “Middle England”? “It’s frightfully white and middle class…it should reflect inner city Portsmouth as well as the leafy suburbs”. (However, it was recognised that this may be due to the nature of the diocese). This view was also countered by the argument that there have been recent articles which fall outside the “white, middle class” bracket.
Pompey Chimes – other niggles Rural parishes were felt to be under-represented. It was thought that stories about churches in a rural context could help to encourage others in the same boat. It assumes a reasonable reading age. Advertising inserts cause annoyance: “people do get jolly cross with them” “most end up in the waste bin at church” Late arrival in one parish: “it won’t be there this Sunday, I can guarantee it” Parish apathy can hold it back: It can only be “as good as the material provided”. Listings can seem biased towards Portsmouth, and often to relate to the same parishes time after time – maybe due to apathy on the part of other parishes?
Pompey Chimes – does it challenge? Some respondents feel PC is not sufficiently challenging and called for more edgy, provocative articles. The wider view was that does contain a challenge: It explores issues that are not straightforward Personal stories can be challenging for some readers The Last Word often contains a challenge Ordinary church stories can be a challenge for some parishes: “if they can manage that then maybe we can”. Initiatives like Street Pastors and Friday Fridge have been featured – “I’d call that edgy”. As one respondent said: I know we need to be challenged, but not to the point of…..exhaustion!”
Pompey Chimes – respondent ideas A youth section featuring: Articles written by young people Fun/games/comic strip/joke – “to brighten up my day” A wider variety of articles: “Kairos Buildings projects don’t need to be in every one”. Inclusion of some less positive stories e.g. a struggling church explaining their situation – for others in the same boat to relate to, and for more comfortable parishes to think how they could support. More opportunity for feedback e.g. in response to more provocative articles.
Website Survey – visitor profile Based on a small sample (28 responses), the following profile of visitors to the website has been ascertained: Who are they? 59% are laity (diocesan/deanery synod OR PCC members OR go to a church in the diocese) 22% are ministers 7% are diocesan employees (from outside our diocese) 4% are non-churchgoers Age & gender? Male:54% Age:- < 347% - 35-4961% - 50-6425% - 65+7% Where do they live? 75% live in the diocese
Website Survey – content interest Q. Which content on the website are you interested in?
Website Survey – info section Q. What have you been looking for on recent visits to the diocesan information section?
Website survey – frequency & ease Q. How frequently do you visit the Q. How easy was it to find what website?you were looking for?
Website - overview The general view was that the website had been quite good in its’ time, but was now due a revamp: “It’s become too big an animal…a bit of a dinosaur” “I think the website needs a radical overhaul” “Other diocesan websites have more than overtaken ours” “I have almost given up on the website and now only go to it when I absolutely have to - I use other diocesan sites and the national C of E website to get most of my information” “The format is old and tired. It needs to be redesigned and freshened up considerably” “It could be simpler and more dramatic” Key issues were identified as: Navigation Keeping it up to date It was recognised that website technology moves on quickly and that websites are hard to maintain.
Website - positives Nevertheless, a sub-set of respondents were positive, and claimed to find it easy enough to use: “Just to say I love the site. Very helpful. Will tell others”. “Bright and cheerful - meets needs of “insiders" and "outsiders" in providing information”. “The site is easy to search and very informative”. “There’s a lot of good information in there once you find it”. The ability to search for diocesan staff and put a face to a name was appreciated, and it was felt that it was easier to find the names/addresses of the Bishop and Archdeacons than had previously been the case
Website - targeting Respondents thought the site was aimed: “Probably predominantly at people in the diocese searching information” There was a feeling that even people in our diocesan congregations might not think of visiting the site. As far as those outside the church were concerned, the feeling was that they would perhaps be more likely to search through a church website or the national C of E site. Nevertheless, it was recognised that the site needs to cater for all these audiences.
Navigation – a key issue “Trying to find things in there is not easy, it’s quite a challenge” “If you weren’t seeped in church wordiness you couldn’t find your way around at all. For an outsider it would be impossible”. Specific criticisms about the navigation included: Difficult for those not familiar with churches in the area to find a named church in the “Find a Church” section. Various areas of the site have pop down menus and some don’t – consistency would be preferred. It was perceived that it takes several clicks to get to the directory – more direct access was requested.
Keeping the site up to date This was a key issue: Information about churches listed under “Find a Church” often out of date. (Also the case for some parish websites). Further comments revealed respondents’ exasperation on this point: “Before Easter the website was hopelessly out of date; the main news was that the churches was looking forward to a busy Christmas…. I questioned why the web site had not been updated to reflect the exciting time of Lent ahead” “I was looking for an appointment date and you look on the appointment’s page and of course you get December’s, we haven’t had a January, February or March this year….” One priest with responsibility for updating a certain section claimed they didn’t have the time, and perhaps the skills, to keep their section up to date appropriately.
Website – other problems… Search function: often ineffectual, either bringing up “no match” or “about 2000 matches”. Text: too small and too much of it. Page layout: lacks variety Rotating photos: often “bear no relation to the text…it’s a bit nonsensical” Diocesan Calendar: “next to useless because it doesn’t include dates of diocesan meetings” Online diocesan handbook: felt to be very slow, with an ineffectual search engine. Find a church: presentation of parish details poorly displayed. Speed: “that is its’ one fundamental problem, I’m waiting and waiting for the links to load”.
Website – other issues One respondent asked whether the Pompey Chimes may be featured too heavily on the website? “I’ve seen all that, I tend to switch off when I see it on the website”. The role of the Faith section was queried: “The bits about the faith, I was quite shocked, this dense small text and one of the categories is “virginal conception”…I thought this is crackers and I wonder who would look at it. If it’s people who are seeking, there’s no way they’re going to access that, and if it’s anyone who knows about the faith already then why would they be looking?” (Priest) “Stuff about the faith – why is it there? Does every diocese and every parish need to have a section on faith?” (Priest)
Web site – respondent ideas Cater for 2 distinct audiences: Those in the “inner sanctum” (closely involved with the diocese) who want access to all the diocesan information. “Outsiders…the un-churched who dip in for weddings” Provide information on what boards & committees are doing: They hold an interest for a wider audience than just the membership. Agendas, membership lists, synod addresses, minutes. “you could click on and think, oh good, there’s life in the system somewhere…it doesn’t encourage anyone to get involved if there’s no way of accessing history” “it would be good if you could click on a fixed date meeting to find out what’s going to be happening in it and who’s attending”
Website – respondent ideas More use of technology e.g. moving images: Faith stories – video clips of the people telling their stories Diocese of Gloucester has a video clip of the Bishop talking about the diocese and cathedral. Learn from other organisations e.g. university websites give virtual tours of the campus. Should contain policies “I’ve used it to search for policies…I’ve visited other diocesan sites and ours isn’t very transparent, it doesn’t have policies on it”. Provide guidelines for parish websites: Information to be included Ensure kept updated Provide a links page to other websites
The Cycle of Prayer Respondents were asked to find the Cycle of Prayer on the website and comment on their usage of it. Several had struggled to find it. Deanery prayer lists were sometimes used in preference. It was mentioned that key Lay people are not on it. On the positive side, one respondent felt it was “really encouraging” to know that they and their parish were going to be prayed for.
The Cycle of Prayer Although it was felt that it had improved from a year or so ago, it was not found to be particularly easy to use in practice: “Too verbose…why does it always have to say so and so with permission to officiate?” Clergy have to weigh up whether to spend time deleting unnecessary words, or print out the wordy version and make life more difficult for those doing intercessions. Would it be easier to pray for retired clergy en masse rather than naming each one? “Praying for these sort of random names that you don’t know anything about feels a bit odd. It’s easier to pray for people and situations you know about” “I think a lot of parishes don’t use it” (priest) The organisation of parishes on the list month by month was felt to be a bit illogical; in some months, some parishes were missing. When the document is opened online, it opens in the same window, so when it is closed, the website closes down as well – this was a problem.
Diocesan Directory The directory was widely appreciated: “it’s invaluable”. The online version was accepted over the old paper copies, as it was widely recognised that they go out of date so quickly. However, one respondent reported that: “sometimes it refuses to work” Suggestions for improvements included: Email addresses to have direct links from them, instead of having to cut and paste. Ensuring all the information is kept up to date e.g. email address changes. A larger post-holder section.
Diocesan Mailing Whilst it is generally accepted for what it is… “Fine, it’s just drawing things to my attention that I might have missed and it’s valuable as that. I don’t expect it to be jazzed up in any way. You self select what you’re interested in”. Respondents acknowledged that not every item would be relevant or interesting to every individual, but that if one “persevered”, there was good information in there. …many recipients do not like the format in which the information arrives: It is considered wordy, text-heavy, and something that has to be “ploughed” through. One priest even said: “it is a tiresome document. I throw my hands up when I get it, what shall I do with it!” Everyone, even those not currently receiving it, found something of interest, and felt that they would like to have access to this information in some format.
Diocesan Mailing – improvements A common view was that clergy and readers should receive an email notification of the briefing, containing an index list of topics in the form of hyperlinks leading through to more detailed information. This would allow fast scanning for items of personal interest. Some felt that pictures/icons would make the information easier to access, as would reducing the amount of text: “you could get the point across in 2 sentences instead of 2 paragraphs”. In addition, this information could be added to the website, to give access to a wider audience: It would make “perfect e-news”. Many felt that priests have so much on their plate that the dissemination of this information to all who might be interested, could be a low priority. Several respondents thought a monthly briefing might be better, as it would reduce the volume of information each time.
Training course booklet Many of the non-clergy had never seen the booklet, which they felt was a shame, as they would be interested in finding out about courses. It was felt useful to have a booklet listing all training courses, and having names and faces on the back was appreciated. Most respondents felt that the design of the booklet was not that inspiring, and might not draw people into going on a course, unless they were already engaged in the idea. The Winchester equivalent was referred to as “beautiful and brilliant, it makes you feel valued”.
Kairos Buildings Materials These materials were appreciated. Although the production values of the DVD were thought to be not great, the presence of a DVD was welcomed. The quality of the booklet was praised, as it was felt important to have resources of a suitable standard to support important initiatives.