USCCB: Growing the Pope’s Flock: How One Hashtag United the Church

Golin was tasked with increasing the relevance of the U.S. Catholic Church and motivating Catholics and non-Catholics to perform acts of mercy in their own communities, inspired by Pope Francis’ first visit to the U.S. Ahead of his visit, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops asked Golin to make a big social media splash across channels, with a dual focus on the growing Hispanic following and its affinity for the first Latin American Pope. So, Golin developed a strategy that encompassed content marketing, influencer outreach and proactive media messaging and took the Bridge on the road and for the first time in both English and Spanish. Guided by the Golin-developed social purpose of “Joyously Moving People to Merciful Action,” our traveling team of strategists, writers, editors, designers and content creators developed an arsenal of planned and real-time content, including inspirational quotes and calls for good deeds in both English and Spanish.

With zero paid support, our joyful messages reached our total market audience on a scale never before seen by the Church. The Golin team created 2,268 pieces of social content—with an average turnaround time of 15 minutes for a post featuring an image and quote from Pope Francis and 35 minutes for a video or GIF—that received 18.5 million impressions. Our team identified stories before they happened, created relevant content, analyzed more than 10 million mentions of the Pope that were happening each minute on social and pinpointed the most influential voices advocating for the Church. When people like Bette Midler, Anderson Cooper and Shakira tweeted, we captured it and responded within minutes.

Throughout the Pope’s visit, our team engaged one-on-one with 1,300 fans by asking them to share experiences about what they pray for, generating a 75% response rate. We distilled more than 73 billion Pope mentions into clear, concise insights that prepared clients for nearly every question posed during daily press briefings. And when a potentially negative issue surfaced, we used proactive messaging to get ahead of it and change the conversation back to positive.

After the visit, 28% of U.S. adults said they have a more positive view of the Catholic Church because of Pope Francis, according to the Pew Research Center. Our team created relevance for the Pope, ushering in a new era of evangelism for the Catholic Church in the U.S.