USCCB communications restructuring shifts focus from print to digital – Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The chief communications officer for the
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Department of Communications announced a restructuring
that will shift the focus of its operation from a traditional print structure
to a digital model.

“It’s an exercise in enculturation,” said James Rogers, USCCB
chief communications officer. “If you’re going to evangelize, you need to reach
people where they are.”

The communications department was
built when print and newspapers were the dominant force in media. The landscape has been dramatically transitioning in recent years to a digital platform,
where information is frequently sought and shared in real time, Rogers told Catholic News Service May 8.

Though print content will continue to
be generated, more resources will be directed toward visual media, digital
content and social media dissemination, Rogers said.

The restructuring involves the
elimination of 12 jobs and the creation of 10 new positions.

Employees whose jobs were eliminated
will be considered for the newly created positions if they have the required
skills to do the work, Rogers said.

Planning for the restructuring began in
2014 with the commission of two different studies from independent communications
consulting groups.

The consultants were charged with examining
the department’s operation and recommending how to best reach the USCCB’s targeted
audiences.

The only area not directly impacted by
the communications restructuring was Catholic News Service, which will retain
its current staff and remain editorially independent of the USCCB.

“A part of the review was to look at
the position of Catholic News Service within, for the lack of a better word,
the space of the dialogue that takes place,” Rogers said. “Catholic News
Service is very well-respected. When we did the survey of clients and
customers, we found its position of trust is on par with, or higher than that of
any other Catholic news outlet that you could compare CNS to.

“The reason you are not seeing change,
in terms of the core structure of Catholic News Service, is because of the tremendous
content creation capacity that is there,” he said. “It’s a well-respected, well-known
brand.”

The challenge for CNS
is that “people tie it to channels and since it was born as a print wire
service,” they don’t necessarily associate it with the digital content it
produces, such as video, its multimedia offerings, or its social media
endeavors in breaking Catholic news, Rogers said.

“So, we’re making changes to the
marketing structure of CNS,” he said, “because the content is there. The key is
raising the awareness among those who would be interested in that content.”  

In addition to retooling how the communications department
markets CNS, the reorganization also will build a dedicated digital team and
provide episcopal resources to help bishops throughout the U.S. share national
and international news of the church to their audiences.

The marketing team is being renamed Marketing and Episcopal
Resources with specialists who will focus on web development, digital media,
graphic design, marketing, sales, distribution and content coordination.

The creative services team also will develop multimedia
content using elements of graphics, video and writing.

Outside vendors and freelancers will be brought in for ongoing opinion research, as well as creative and content development, so
that the USCCB can stay in tune with how the world is receiving its
information, Rogers said.

Calling the restructuring a “repurposing of resources and not
a retrenchment,” Rogers acknowledged some displaced employees will not meet the
requirements for the newly created positions and will ultimately lose their employment
at the USCCB.

The independent consultants called their study a “clean-slate”
approach, requiring the USCCB to look at the challenges it faces, develop the
best structure to meet those challenges, “and that work was done without regard
for the current structure within communications at the (USCCB),” he said. “It
was based on positions and not people.”

It was done that way to make sure the leadership was focused
on the outcome and concentrated on where the communications efforts needed to
be, Rogers said.

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