The content and role of Web sites in the public relations of religious congregations

Jerlen Young Nelson


This study presents an analysis of the content of Web sites belonging to local religious congregations. The study included a quantitative content analysis of the Web sites of 120 local congregations, which represented 12 different religious organizations. These religious organizations were all members of the Religious Communicators Council organization. Results of the study emphasized the basic content and functions of the Web sites. Overall, this study found that 43.3% of the Web sites were used for informational purposes only. For example, a few of the most prevalent variables on the Web sites were the general contact information, staff information, e-mail addresses, worship service times, and special events times. In regards, to the functions of the Web sites, the most prevalent features were a part of the usability function of the site. For instance 100% of the sites had minimal unwanted ads and minimal downloading times. The variables were coded into three main audiences: internal, external and media. The results indicated that the sites did not target any of the audiences specifically. The findings further suggest that the local congregations have not been using the Web sites to their maximum potential. Furthermore, only one Web site of out 120 demonstrated the two-way asymmetrical model of public relations in terms of the Web content and functions. And none of the sites practiced the two-way symmetrical model, considered to be the most effective model of public relations to use. On the other hand, 64 of the Web sites practiced multiple models of public relations, thereby confirming the theory of contingency. The contingency theory suggests that the public relations models are too rigid and that one model is not sufficient. Yet, the Web sites suggest more traditional or historical aspect of public relations on the hybrid continuum of public relations models.