Perth Archdiocese makes strides to communicate effectively

26 Jul 2019

By Matthew Lau

The Archdiocese of Perth Communications Office team. Photo: Jamie O’Brien.

The Archdiocese of Perth’s means of communicating to its faithful has vastly evolved over the past seven years from a weekly newspaper to a now multi-media platform.

In this current internet-driven climate, digital effective communications is key to any successful organisation. For our local archdiocese, action began in 2012 with a review of The Record newspaper.

Progress was made in 2014 with the development of the Archdiocese of Perth Communications Office.

Communications Manager Jamie O’Brien said the advancement required a complete overhaul of communications assets, starting with an analysis of reader demographics.

“It was determined based on a ‘change in readership’ and a need to address the digital age,” he said.

“That meant that there needed to be a whole new strategy as to what that meant, how to communicate to different groups [clergy, religious, laity, non-Catholic], while looking at how to engage with social media and also understanding timelines, such as when people read news.”

Initiated in 1874 by then-Bishop Martin Griver, The W.A. Catholic Record newspaper (later shortened to The Record)was a mainstay of the Archdiocese for 140 years.

Thus came The eRecord in October 2014.

Bishop Matthew Gibney served the Archdiocese of Perth from 1886 until 1910. Photo: Archives.

Analysis from 2015 to 2017 indicates there have been some 2000 articles published during that period, which included a variety of local, national, international, movie and book reviews.

Since then, readership has grown at an expediential rate by more than 300 per cent.

Events within the Archdiocese have been emailed out in the format of a weekly newsletter; this is still being assessed and has recently been expanded to be promoted through Facebook.

“With that, we have had to ensure checks and balances are in place to maintain the Catholicity of the nature of the events, and that the necessary safeguarding standards are in place,” Mr O’Brien explained.

“This new method of promoting events has resulted in better coverage of events via The eRecord, not just for agencies and organisations of the Archdiocese, but for all faith and social service groups.”

The release of the Archdiocesan Plan 2016-2021 presented the implementation of a new Effective Communications strategy to elevate comms to the next level.

The plan saw the birth of The Record magazine, as Mr O’Brien details: “the 142-year tradition started to grow even more”.

By February 2019, there had been 17 bi-monthly editions printed, covering themes of the Year of Mercy, Education, Health, Women, Social Outreach, Adult Faith, and Youth to name a few.

The Archdiocese’s social media has flourished during this evolution, embracing Facebook and Instagram notably.

By the beginning of 2017, Archbishop Timothy Costelloe’s Facebook page was created. The Archbishop of Perth has delivered Christmas and Easter videos, as well as other content on various messages where necessary.

“The development of videos by that time had started to grow, our audience were really starting to demand regular video content that was engaging and attentive to the situation at the time,” Mr O’Brien added.

“It is vital to ensure we capture the essence of significant events in a video sense, and not just in words and images.”

Social media readership between all the Archdiocese’s channels has reached about 50,000 unique hits annually.

“Social media has also served as an avenue for people to provide their feedback on topics, replacing the age-old method of letters to the editor,” he said.

Archdiocesan Vicar General Fr Peter Whitely. Photo: Supplied.

In 2018, readers of all ages and backgrounds were encouraged to relay their thoughts on The eRecord and The Record magazine by submitting a survey to the Communications Office.

A Communications Advisory Group, chaired by the Very Rev Father Peter Whitely VG, has supported the Communications Office.

All content has been vetted by Fr Whitely prior to dissemination, with the additional support of a new print/broadcast editorial guidelines, and a new style-guide is hoped to be finalised by the end of 2019.

“I am constantly in awe of our Archdiocesan Communication Office staff’s ability to keep up with and use the expanding means of communication to pass on the Good News of Jesus to the people of our Archdiocese and beyond,” Fr Whitely said.