Reaching Clarity in the Midst of Controversy and Confusion

Communications often is a misunderstood art. Sometimes too much energy is spent on what to say or how to say it. Significant investment is made in crafting just the right message, and strategizing what is perceived as the perfect platform. The first task for successful communications is not determining what to say, but predicting how what you say will be heard.   Listen to Your Audience How can those responsible for diocesan communications advise leadership searching for ways to reach out to their Catholic audiences in light of the most recent revelations about clergy sexual abuse and cover up?   Four Pitfalls to Overcome to Reach Clarity 1. Thinking your Catholic audience is homogeneous. Catholics are a diverse group. There are clearly ethnic and socio-economic differences. There are also weekly worshippers, infrequent churchgoers, single parent families, young and old, and everyone in between. This requires careful message management so that people feel like you are speaking to...

Choosing the Correct Word: Catastrophe

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, called the recent revelations of priest abuse and cover-up in six dioceses in Pennsylvania a “moral catastrophe.” He could not have used a more powerful or appropriate word. Everyone understands a catastrophe. A deadly hurricane. Mass murder. The killing of a president. Acts of war, human trafficking and other human atrocities. A catastrophe suggests widespread destruction with untold consequences that will require heroic efforts to restore and make whole, and holy, again. Catastrophe. Why did the Executive Committee of the Bishop’s Conference use this particular word? Words can cut to the heart of the truth. Cardinal Di Nardo clearly understands that this is not the time for crisis communications strategies or legal briefs. While important clarifications might be in order for particular dioceses, now is not the time for half measures. It is time for the simple truth that everyone understands. Near...

Strengthening Internal Communications to Expand Your Appeal

Building awareness of the benefits of your diocesan appeal is essential to success. One important ingredient is leadership. Empowering leaders to be strong advocates is the key. Building bottom-up energy – grassroots leadership – will increase awareness of and generate enthusiasm for the mission of the local Church. Grassroots leaders can help advance the pastoral vision of the bishop and encourage people to consider the needs of others beyond their parish community. Pastors and other ministry leaders play a critical role in promoting the appeal. When they are actively involved, people notice – participation spikes and giving levels can increase significantly. But it’s not always easy. How you communicate with pastors and diocesan leaders can be as important as what you communicate. A strong and consistent internal communications strategy is the cornerstone of any solid marketing strategy. Tapping into the energy and dedication of those on the front lines of pastoral care...

The Red Kettle

Every nonprofit organization dreams of a brand signature as recognizable as The Salvation Army Red Kettle. It is an American icon. Like Chevrolet or the iPhone, it is hard to imagine a world without it. During the recent “bell ringers” Christmas campaign, The Salvation Army announced it was lagging in gifts. Fewer people were dropping less money in the kettles at retail stores. Are people less generous? Have they forgotten The Salvation Army's mission? Is the nostalgic image of the bell ringer in a Santa suit just that, nostalgia? You don’t have to think too hard or look too far to figure out what is going on. First, fewer people carry cash. Just as importantly, more people are choosing to shop online. Fewer cash customers. Dwindling foot traffic. Two of the very things a successful Red Kettle Campaign depend on! Often we look for answers to why there are fewer gifts by analyzing...

Reaching Diverse Audiences

Understanding your audience is the first step to successful communications. For your faithful donors, consistent stewardship messages delivered through traditional media (direct mail, print advertising, in-pew appeals) will always be an effective way to cultivate and sustain giving. But younger, more diverse audiences can be more difficult to reach. Henning Communications has developed a new donor pursuit methodology to help you build awareness and encourage stewardship commitments among "occasional" Catholics and disconnected households. Rooted in the principles of evangelization, this communications-driven approach invites people to recognize God's blessings and to draw closer to the life of the Church. A New Approach to Donor Communications The chart below illustrates three distinct audience segments, and identifies some of the behaviors and beliefs that characterize each. Using this model, we develop creative and messaging that will resonate with hard-to-reach audiences through innovative, integrated stewardship communications. Reach Occasional Catholics. Cultivate Faithful Audiences. This new approach integrates direct mail strategies, print and digital...

On A Mission from God

The other night I was hanging out with my husband, procrastinating doing laundry, watching The Blues Brothers for the umpteenth time. It’s one of those perfect movies that you can see again and again, and laugh out loud at something new, every time. I mean, what’s not to like? Lovable crooks, Jake and Ellwood, Aretha at her fiercest, Cab Calloway in a white cutaway tailcoat, Carrie Fisher with a flamethrower…I could go on, but you get the idea. Jake: How you gonna get the band back together, Mr. Hot-Rodder? Mr. Motor Head? The cops got your name, your address! Ellwood: No, they don't got my address. I falsified my renewal. Put down 1060 West Addison. Jake: 1060 West Addison? That’s Wrigley Field. Suddenly, I had a burst of insight: What about Elwood’s annual appeal solicitations? They were probably delivered straight to the Wrigley Field front office, processed through the mailroom and stamped RETURN TO SENDER. And in six weeks, when...

Building Stronger Results for Your Appeal

Whether you're just wrapping up your appeal or already planning for next year, you probably are thinking of ways to activate more prospects, retain first-time donors and move your most faithful donors to higher levels of giving. You may be interested to learn that Henning Communications has developed a proven, communications-driven methodology to help Catholic dioceses increase participation, improve donor loyalty and exceed financial goals year over year. The results below show how strong communications integrated with disciplined donor movement tactics can strengthen stewardship commitments among Catholic audiences. Our guiding principle is the simple belief that everyone has been gifted by God. Like you, we understand that this is the starting point for faithful stewardship and generosity. Every gift is rooted in God’s love. With that as our foundation, we help dioceses create communications that inspire Catholic audiences and achieve stronger results over time. Our team is “passionately dedicated to the search for new...

Archdiocese of Omaha Exceeds Appeal Goal by $335,000

We would like to congratulate the development team at the Archdiocese of Omaha for exceeding their annual appeal goal of $3.5 million by more than $335,000. Their vision and dedication to building a culture of philanthropy is bearing much fruit and impacting the lives of those served every day. We are proud to partner with the Archdiocese of Omaha, and we would like to share with you some of the ways they have accomplished these outstanding results. After conducting a successful $53 million capital campaign, the archdiocesan development team saw an opportunity to cultivate newly energized audiences and increase annual giving. They partnered with Henning Communications to develop targeted brand marketing and strategic communications to support their Archbishop’s Annual Appeal. Key messages of evangelization and stewardship, rooted in the vision of Archbishop George J. Lucas, provided a foundation for all appeal communications. New creative approaches were proposed and developed to encourage even...

Simplicity and Shakespeare

“And this, our life… Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, Sermons in stones, and good in everything.” Pop quiz – is this a stanza from: An Appalachian folk song Shakespeare All of the above If you guessed “All of the above” – you’re right! Re-imagining something as complex as Shakespeare takes time and talent. When I heard that a company was setting As You Like It in the 1920s Ozarks, I was skeptical. Would an exile to the Elizabethan forest of Arden work in mid-Missouri? It did. The team stripped the script down to the bare essentials, and wove Shakespeare’s lyrics into original compositions and traditional folk tunes. The set was a cabin porch and a campfire. The lighting designer projected a starry night sky on the ceiling of the theater. Sitting in the audience, it felt like spending a spring evening on a porch swing. Every design choice helped tell the...

The Power of Habits

Habits make life easier. And better. Habits allow us to do things almost without thinking, certainly without deliberation.  The power of habit in driving behavior is amazing. Evidence of consumer marketing and merchandising is everywhere. Grocery chains place high-profit merchandise near the entrance and directly to the right because most people habitually turn right when entering a store. The lush displays of fresh fruits and vegetables are near the entry as well because they appeal to the shopper’s habitual desire to eat healthy. By the time he reaches the taco chip aisle he will already have been satisfied with the choice made to be healthy, and be ready to indulge in a salty snack. A new habit is formed. Charles Duhigg in his “New York Times” bestseller “The Power of Habit – Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business,” explodes the notion that people make decisions when they are...