Pope’s Messages May Scatter Flock

Late September, Pope Francis will visit the U.S. for the first time. The Pope’s visit comes at a crucial time, as the number of Catholics in the U.S. has declined by three million since 2007, according to a PEW Research study.

Credit: PEW Research Center

Credit: PEW Research Center

Pope Francis is hoping to remedy this significant slide by demonstrating that he is willing to directly address the controversies faced by the Catholic Church. According to a PR Week article, the Pope will focus on anti-discrimination messaging, which is expected to resonate well given the current racial turmoil in the U.S. He will also address global warming and use his Argentinian heritage to connect with Latino and Hispanic populations.

With his open position on homosexual marriage and his active participation on social media platforms, Pope Francis seems like the right man to secure a younger Catholic audience’s approval and support once more. The major issue is balancing this modern-day thinking with traditional Catholic beliefs. PR experts predict that the Pope will emphasize broader topics, such as the launch of new charitable programs, instead of the touchy social issues that tend to split and cause tension among Church members.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Credit: Wikipedia

The question is: How do you select messaging when you need to target multiple audiences? The obvious answer seems that you should prioritize one audience over another; however, in the case of the Catholic Church you are faced with two completely different points of view. On one hand you have the more conservative, older Catholics who have been with the Church forever. On the other, you have a younger generation of Catholics who many not agree with all of the old beliefs.

What campaign messages and strategies would you enact for the Pope on his trip to the U.S.? How would you help the Pope present a cohesive message, while still relating to two completely different, but equally important audiences? Or do you think one audience should be prioritized over another on this U.S. trip?

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5 Responses to Pope’s Messages May Scatter Flock

  1. Alexandra Long says:

    If the number of Catholics has declined by three million since 2007, perhaps the audience of potential catholics is the most important audience to prioritize, if any. That audience is also split between younger and less conservative people who would be receptive to more progressive messaging and the older and more conservative people who would be receptive to more traditional messaging. If the Pope hopes to make an impact on this U.S. trip, perhaps he might want to prioritize that audience to engage those who aren’t already engaged in the church by using more neutral messaging aimed, not at divisive issues, but at being welcoming. I would focus my energy there.

  2. Kate Sitter says:

    First, I’d like to compliment Morgan on a very well-researched blog post.

    If I were advising the Pope on his trip to America, I would first define his talking points. I think that galvanizing a millennial audience, 18-25, would behoove the church in general. This is the upcoming generation, targeted by basically every marketing firm. I would argue that generations above millennials, such as baby boomers, are already set in their church habits. Millennials are still forming their habits, and are thus the age range that needs to be targeted. Issues that millennials are generally interested in would be the church’s stance on same-sex marriage, anti-discrimination, border relations, and some global warming topics. The Pope has already been controversial on these topics; I would advise him to be consistent with his previous messaging, because nothing would be worse than flip-flopping on his dogmas. In terms of angering current Catholics of an older generation, I think the Pope should lace his speeches with reassurance that his stances are not forsaking the way the church has worked for years, just adapting with the social climate.

  3. Catherine Hahne says:

    The Pope is smart to try and reach out to the younger Catholics. Growing up Catholic, I know that many stray away from the church after high school, when their parents can’t make them go to church anymore. To gain followers back into the church, it is important to reach out to that age group. By showing people what the Catholic Church does instead of just telling people what to do. He is out there hands on. He is also more contemporary than the last Pope. He is understanding and promotes what the Catholic church is really about.

    If this was my campaign I would encourage the Pope to keep doing what he is doing, because it is working. I would also encourage him to reach out to a teen program and find a way to speak to the younger audience directly. The beauty of his approaches is that they fit with both the ultra conservative Catholics, but can also reach out to a younger audience.

  4. Teresa Joseph says:

    I think Pope Francis is something extremely relevant in PR news. According to ABC News, 92 percent of American Catholics view Pope Francis favorably, while 69 percent of all Americans. He has gone against the Catholic Church in his comments about the LGBT community and his statements about God redeeming everyone, not just Christians. By choosing a more liberal Pope, the Church is able to show that they are conforming to current times. As long as the Pope continues these methods and tries to reach out to the youth, then I think this will help their outreach methods. I think that the younger generation should definitely be prioritized in his trip to the U.S. because in the long term, these are the numbers that matter.

    What do you think about Pope Francis current social media efforts? Do you think this has helped reach the younger generation?

    ABC NEWS: http://abcnews.go.com/International/pope-francis-predecessors/story?id=21177113

  5. Elissa Harrison says:

    One campaign message I would enact for Pope Francis would be the theme “universal.” Many people don’t realize that the word catholic means universal. This means that no matter where you go, the Mass and ritual that occurring in America is the exact same Mass happening in Africa. Once the image has been pushed, as we are one body and one unit, then I would want to launch the “universal” campaign in a more forward- thinking campaign. For example, thousands of people love to follow the Pope on Twitter and gain his insight daily. I think many of the younger generation view the Catholic faith as boring or outdated. The goal of my campaign for the Pope would keep the traditional parts of the faith intact but present them in a more eye- appealing way. I also would not separate how I target the audiences. I am a strong believer in the “universal” church like stated above. I would consider launching videos or talks from Pope Francis so people can put a face behind the church. I would personally though reach out to youth groups and the children of the church inviting them to Pope Francis’ speeches. These children will one day be the generation who choose to bring their children to church. It is important we amp up and set these kids’ hearts on fire! I am excited to see Pope Francis come to the U.S. Do you think it is beneficial to target people together or separately in this case? What do you think is the main reason for the decline and how would you personally address it.

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