Posts Tagged ‘vatican’

Pontiffs and Pyongyang: Putting the ‘P’ into PR

What have Kim Jong-Un and Pope Francis got in common? Both evoke the interest of a global audience transmitting their message through an attention-grabbing communications medium.

As Easter is just past us, it’s only natural that our attentions might turn towards the Vatican at this time of year. The rise and rise of Pope Francis has been interesting to watch so far – it certainly seems that the Vatican has chosen the right man for the job.

Pope Francis has moved from strength to strength, tackling all the thorny issues facing the Holy See straight on, unafraid to confront the difficult issues at hand, speaking with frankness to the media at every opportunity. He is engaged with social media – the @Pontiff Twitter feed has doubled its following since he took office – and never misses a good photo opportunity.

Whether he has been washing and kissing prisoners’ feet or signing the cast of a girl with a recently broken leg, he has been making a proactive effort to align himself with the grass roots of the Church. He is fit for purpose and managing the repositioning of the Church well.

On the other side of the world, another new(ish) leader has been grabbing global headlines: Kim Jong-Un. The epitome of vintage totalitarian cliché, Kim Jong-Un has been throwing any conceivable toy from the Pyongyang pram to try and assert himself as a force to be reckoned with in recent weeks. The global media lap up his lame photo opps, printing his ludicrous spiel.
The world has been growing weary of his radioactive rhetoric on the political front, but he has certainly proved himself prime material for political parody since he stepped into his father’s shoes. From Seth MacFarlane to The Onion, he has shown a talent for grabbing headlines, even if it may not be in the way he would like.

The Pontiff and The Leader in Pyongyang have one thing in common: the force of personality.

I am reminded of a Goebbels axiom: “The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly – it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over”

Papal palpitations and Catholic communications

Despite all the noise surrounding Pope Benedict’s resignation, we will doubtless see the same arcane processes in the choosing of the next Pope, highlighting all the inadequacies of the Catholic brand at a time when it is weaker than ever. Betting websites are already placing odds on who the next Pope is going to be, and the secretive internal processes framed by smoke signals will only intensify the media focus on all the negatives.

It is curious that religious figures are not doing more to embrace the popular media, crafting a popular character to lead the church into the 21st century. Pope John Paul II was always going to be a difficult media act to follow but Benedict’s resignation still comes as a surprise. Pope Benedict’s abdication provides a mixed opportunity to reinvigorate Catholic communications and to create a stronger figurehead.

The Great Papal Turnaround

Before the Papal three-ring-circus moved into town, I was asked by a number of media outlets what I thought of the Pope’s PR apparatus. At the time, I commented that it didn’t take a rocket scientist to see that this anachronistic throwback was not fit for modern media purpose. Lacking charisma (in stark contrast with his predecessor, John Paul II), I suggested that Benedict would find it difficult to counter the unease at his tour of Britain. I suggested he was not “God’s Showman” – not instinctively sharp, witty or insightful and with a poor history in delivering the one-liners and sound bites that are the foundation of being a 21st century media success. Read the rest of this entry »

Digital Missionaries and the Vatican

So, an über-Cardinal in Rome feels that it’s time for a generation to detox from technology. Forget fasting for lent, the Pope’s publicist has floated a story that we all need to curb our technology obsession and digital addiction. “Thou shalt not text or play games for lent” is the missive from the Vatican. Transformational storytelling it’s not.

I think the Supreme Being will be pulling cosmic hairs out of his signature big white beard with frustration. This sort of reactionary fundamentalism is plain silly. The Catholic Church is missing a trick. They need to embrace the myriad of platforms available and use them. If the church was to think creatively about what could be achieved by hooking up to the gaming universe, mobiles and social networking sites, it might just become relevant.

I am not suggesting a repeat of some of the stunts that have emanated from the odd funky priest – sermons in txt or text voting for hymn choices. No, I propose something much more immersive; to use church buildings and communities as the springboard for a major digital rethink.

Get the game play right for a religiously themed Xbox game and think about the potential of communicating with groups of gamers. What about apps on Facebook and iPhone? There’s a whole generation out there that any religion that wants to try can only reach by becoming digital missionaries.

The Vatican needs to grasp vitality and stop proffering a hair shirt!