A press release is a general announcement that companies and event organizers send to media outlets in the hopes that the newspaper or the radio station will give them some free publicity. When e-mail became ubiquitous, the old-fashioned press release morphed into something else — spam.
I got a dozen of these spam messages in just the last couple of hours, promising that I could control costs, lose weight, protect myself with a wilderness knife, and a few that I can’t mention in public.
Who are you actually targeting?
The thing that all these messages have in common is that they’re generic. The people who send them are hoping that if they blanket the Internet with their press releases, someone in the universe will reply. I fear that a lot of RCIA teams are doing the same thing with announcements in the bulletin.
Most of the announcements I see are generic blurbs aimed at no one in particular. Because I’ve written my share of these kinds of things in my disreputable past, I understand the motivation. Our numbers are down, and we desperately want more inquirers in our RCIA process. We don’t know where to find inquirers, but there must be at least a couple of potentials at Mass on Sunday. So we decide to invite “everyone” to RCIA by placing a general announcement (aka, press release; aka spam) in the Sunday bulletin.
And it never works. Never. But we are a people of hope, and so we keep trying.
Generic announcements won’t reach unique individuals
Think about how your generic announcement is read by potential seekers. You might have a Lutheran-married-to-a-Catholic who knows more about both Lutheran tradition and Catholic tradition than many of your RCIA team members. He won’t think the announcement is for him because it is for people who “want to learn more about being Catholic.”
Or, if she has time to read the bulletin, a single mom who feels like she isn’t doing a good enough job as a parent. She doesn’t want to learn more about being Catholic. She wants peace and joy in her life.
Or the 20-something who wants to get married to her Catholic boyfriend. She is agnostic and could care less about becoming Catholic. She just wants to marry her boyfriend, and her being Catholic seems important to him.
And what about the thousands of people in your city who are seeking something more meaningful in their lives but who will never be in church to read your announcement?
How to get out and meet your next inquirer
If we truly want to reach these potential inquirers, we have to stop sending out press releases. Instead, we have to make a phone call, shake a hand, go to an event, post a story on Facebook, volunteer outside the parish, encounter strangers. If we do these kinds of things, we will be much more effective at inviting new seekers into our RCIA processes.
Share your ideas
What methods do you currently use to attract seekers? What are some of your success stories? Please share in the comments box below.