When it comes to thinking about audiences, a parish needs to make a choice about the purpose of its website. Is this website mostly for members, that is, is it a communications vehicle that presents activity based information serving active members? Or is it a website for the larger community that is witnessing to your values, reaching out to inactive or non-members, and encouraging future members to “come and see” as well as serving members? Put in another way, we might ask “Are we broadcasting what we want our members to know or are we trying to answer our visitors’ questions some of whom will be members?”
In Part I of this series I made the case that active members of an organization visit the website in search of specific information. They will be content to click on a link that will take them to that information i.e. schedules, event details, registration forms, etc. If that is your intended audience, then you do not need to read further.
If however, you see your website as an opportunity to reach out and expand your field of influence and proclaim the Gospel more widely, then you need to think differently. Begin by asking who possible visitors to your website are.
Here are some possible visitors to parish websites:
- New and potentially new parishioners
- Travelers looking for Mass on Sunday
- Neighbors from the community interested in learning more about your church
- People interested in the Catholic faith
- Inactive Catholics considering a return to the practice of their faith
- New parents looking to get their baby baptized
- Couples wanting to arrange for their marriage
- Families wanting to arrange a funeral
- Active members and others looking for inspiration and encouragement to grow in their faith.
- Parents looking for a Catholic school or religious education program for their children or a youth group for their teenage children
- A whole variety of people will visit to learn when ashes will be distributed, and when the Masses on Christmas and Easter will be
The above list is somewhat general. You will need to make a list that reflects your particular situation. For example, you may have a community that serves diverse groups of people or where special needs exist. You need to take them into consideration when you plan your website.
You can define your goals in terms of your audiences very simply:
- To make them feel welcome immediately
- To add value to their lives by answering their questions directly and quickly
- To pull them back to the site by providing content such as a blog or news feed that is updated regularly to which they can subscribe and/or links to social media sites
- To engage them by offering ways they can contact you both on- and off-line
Examine your current website. Look at it through the eyes of one or two of your “broader” audiences and ask if your website is achieving the above four goals for them. If you answer “yes,” you most likely have an evangelizing parish website and one that will attract more visitors who will not only return, but recommend the site to others.
If you have a website for a diocese, religious community or organization, ask the same question: who are your audiences? The four goals can fit for them as well.
The success of our website is not just the number of visitors, but the quality of engagement of those who do come. Next week we will talk about how content and tone impact quality.
Do you have goals for your website? Please share them with us. Thank you.