The Vatican Joins the World’s Conversation

Pope tweets 150x150 The Vatican Joins the Worlds Conversation

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) to the Vatican for an image overhaul now underway.

Since Pope Francis’s appointment, the Pontiff has issued more than 30 tweets. Is it  proof that the Vatican’s unofficial PR makeover is underway? Instead of taking clearly dogmatic and non-negotiable stands on established issues, the Vatican, it seems, is adopting a different tone and is joining new conversations. Some of them are raising eyebrows, with the latest being the most controversial: economic justice.

The Pontiff’s latest tweet took aim at corporations, blaming them for rampant unemployment rates throughout the world. “My thoughts turn to all who are unemployed, often as a result of a self-centered mindset bent on profit at any cost,” tweeted the Pope. This followed his earlier tweet criticizing the labor conditions at the Bangladesh factory building that collapsed and killed hundreds of people. As the Twitterverse built on the discussion, Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, was asked about the papal tweet at a news conference. “We are . . . frustrated, yes, certainly,” he said.

Suddenly, the Vatican is in the news for different reasons – talking about what’s already in the news instead of driving its own agenda. After ten years of terrible publicity concerning child abuse and accusations of irrelevancy to the modern age, the PR conversation is changing.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) to the Vatican for an image overhaul now underway.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Rather than failing to start your own conversation, join an existing one. For ten years, the PR concerning the Vatican has been focused on four hot button issues: abortion, ordination of women, gay rights, and child sex abuse at the hands of clergy. All polarizing, and all laying the church open to the oft-made claim that it is out of touch and irrelevant. A decade of bad publicity has taken its toll, but with the latest tweets, an important repositioning is taking place. The Vatican is now joining the conversation that everybody else is already in, and as it does so, its relevance increases – along with a Twitterverse of future PR opportunities and listeners.

 

Boy Scouts PR Move: More Talk, Less Action

 Boy Scouts PR Move: More Talk, Less Action

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for the Boy Scouts of America.

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) got a lucky PR break last week. As the Catholic Church prepared for the conclave, the PR spotlight was turned away from the US organization that continues to ban openly gay Scouts and Scout leaders. The conclave inadvertently bought the BSA some breathing space as the Boy Scouts, just like the Catholic Church, grapples with the complex challenge of how to please its diverse constituents while remaining relevant for future generations. The BSA was out of the  PR heat – at least for a week.

The BSA stumbled earlier this year after a press leak, later confirmed, that suggested change was imminent on its policy regarding openly gay members. In fact, the BSA Board was deeply divided. Its solution? It deferred its decision and retreated from the public eye to regroup.

Now, in part to follow up on the recent controversy, the BSA is surveying adult Scouts and their families about the role of gay members and leaders in Scouting. Described as “neutral and not intended … to provide a certain outcome,’” the BSA is at pains to point out that it is now listening to its members. But time will tell whether being in listening mode helps the BSA cure its PR ills.

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for the Boy Scouts of America. Listening to members is fine, but sometimes leadership calls for just that: leadership.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Change the debate to change the crisis. Shifting the terms of the debate is a hallmark of good PR, and it is hard to quibble with asking members for their views; a survey just might identify attitudes and beliefs that can lead to meaningful discussions. In the long run, though, more will be needed. Sometimes leadership requires making a tough decision and taking a public stand. For an organization committed to building the minds, morals, and characters of America’s future leaders, this is one  leadership lesson it can’t afford to ignore.

Vatican Can’t Stop PR Woes

 Vatican Cant Stop PR Woes

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for the Vatican.

What could be in the Vatican dossier? That is the question on the media’s collective mind as rumors continue about the contents of the 300-page dossier complied by Vatican officials into the Vati-leaks scandal. What is already well known is that the report details an underground network of gay clergy, allegedly blackmailed by a rival faction within (or possibly outside) the Vatican. Throw alleged nefarious dealings with the Vatican Bank into the mix, and no wonder the recently resigned Pope has a PR headache larger than his ceremonial headdress.

The upshot? Rumors abound that the Pope resigned not due to failing health, but because the repercussions of the recently complied dossier are so damaging he thought it better to return to a life of isolated prayer. Not true, says a Vatican spokesperson, who has vehemently denied media reports, claiming they are “unverified, unverifiable, or completely false.”

Meanwhile, the Vatican is hurriedly making changes to its top management. It announced a new head of the Vatican Bank and moved one of the bank’s former heads to a new unrelated role. Vatican PR says these changes are unconnected with the dossier and is accusing the media of trying to discredit the church and its government. No one can say for sure, but if the Vatican was a publicly traded company, its stock would now be at all time low.

THE PR VERDICT: “F”(Full Fiasco) for a woeful week for the Vatican.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Start from the beginning. From the moment Pope Benedict said I quit, Vatican PR has been fighting an uphill battle. Conceding that his sudden resignation was a surprise, Vatican PR immediately created fertile ground for rumor and speculation. When a company changes management and chooses a new CEO, there is usually a plan in place to help the transition look seamless and unremarkable to the outside world, no matter what went on behind closed boardroom doors. What happened here, at one of the world’s oldest organizations? That’s as mysterious as the contents of the dossier, but for the Vatican, the problems look set to multiply like loaves and fishes.

New Vatican PR’s First Announcement: I’m the New Vatican PR

 New Vatican PRs First Announcement: Im the New Vatican PR

The PR Verdict: “D” (It’s a Dud) for the Vatican not publicly backing their new press rep, Greg Burke.

Are the Vatican’s PR troubles coming to an end? The Vatican has been looking around for someone to help its beleaguered image, following a series of ongoing PR disasters. The center of Catholicism announced earlier this week the appointment of a new Communications Director–Greg Burke, a 52-year-old American who has covered the Vatican for Fox News. Presumably he will be taking the organization into a new world of “fair and balanced” PR.

When organizations look externally for a PR adviser, it’s usually due to the unhappy realization that no one likes its messaging. In this case, when dealing with a 2,000 year old institution, it remains to be seen how much flexibility Burke has to fashion messages. Announcing his appointment, he explained to the media what a Communication Director does, describing the position as a “strategy job.” He said, “It’s very simple to explain, not so easy to execute: to formulate the message and try to make sure everyone remains on message.”

Strangely, the key person commenting to the media on his appointment seemed to be Burke himself. Where were the Vatican’s leaders welcoming him to the fold and confirming that its PR is about to turn the page?

The PR Verdict: “D” (It’s a Dud) for the Vatican for its handling of the announcement and hiring of its new head honcho.

PR Takeaway: Start as you mean to go on. If a new hire is being brought in to change things up, then a strong public signal of this intention needs to be sent. Having Burke speak to the media about his own appointment without ringing endorsement from the people who hired him already makes him look lame and isolated. Next time, bosses, give your new hire firepower by welcoming and backing him publicly so that the organization and its stakeholders understand change is coming. And new hire, leave your announcement to the bosses and start talking only once your feet are under the table.

Can announcements about new public relations staff ever be made by the PR staff themselves, or does this send the wrong message? Give us your PR Verdict!

Vatican’s Defense: Leaked Documents Are Work of Satan

 Vaticans Defense: Leaked Documents Are Work of Satan

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Vatican PR.

Apparently the Lord is not the only one who moves in mysterious ways. Now the Vatican says it needs to factor the Devil himself into its PR planning. Wondering why current leaks are destabilizing the Vatican and creating havoc in the traditionally hushed institution? The Vatican says the current scandal involving leaked documents and allegations about its financial dealings–known as Vati-Leaks–is the work of Satan.

This startling theocratic explanation comes from none other than Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who apparently ranks second only to Pope Benedict in the Vatican’s’ hierarchy. When asked by Italian media why damage control had failed so miserably, he said the Vatican’s latest headaches were the Devil’s attempt to undermine the holy order.

No wonder the Cardinal  is annoyed: The Devil has leaked sensitive documents and broken secrecy surrounding the Vatican’s banking system. Bertone said in an interview that the image of the Vatican as a place of intrigue and power struggles was misleading, but then somersaulted 180 degrees by commenting, “The truth is that there is an attempt to sow division that comes from the Devil.”

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Vatican PR. (And presumably ”A”–Gold Star!–for the Devil and his PR). If trying to portray events as storms in a teacup, then invoking the Devil is bound to confuse.

The PR Takeaway: It’s not possible to have it both ways in PR. If current scandals are blamed on the Devil, then claiming that there is nothing to worry about sounds odd indeed. Stand the Devil down, Vatican! Otherwise, if some of the allegations are proven to be true, then the Devil might find himself hailed as a whistleblower. What then?

To read more click here.

What do you think of the Vatican’s defense that Satan is behind the Vati-Leaks? Give us your PR Verdict in Speak Your Mind, below.

What did Castro Ask the Pope?

popecuba What did Castro Ask the Pope?

The PR Verdict: “B” for Castro for a clever PR move.

“And what does a Pope do?”  That apparently was the question posed by octogenarian dictator Fidel Castro to the Pope on his recent visit to Cuba.  The Pope, no doubt surprised, politely responded to Castro by talking of his ministry, his trips, and his service to the Church, so says the Vatican’s spokesman.

The Pope in his historic visit made a couple of vague digs at Marxism and spoke about the need for freedom, calling on both the USA and Cuba “to seek truth and choose the way of love, sowing reconciliation and fraternity.”   Nothing too threatening for his hosts.

What else came out of the visit?  Christmas was reinstated by the Cuban regime as a courtesy to the Pontiff as was Good Friday.  Hassle free concessions from one of the world’s nastier dictators.

The PR Verdict: “B” for Castro and his cronies for a clever PR move.  He emerged as the “listening dictator” and by making a couple of smart moves, gave catholic minded Latin Americans something positive to talk about.

The Church and committed Marxists don’t usually get along.  What better way to reboot a tempestuous relationship than by asking a question? Castro’s headline-making ice breaker startled not only for its genuine weirdness but because it changed the dynamic of the visit.  Sounding more like a kid on a school excursion, Castro became the listening dictator not the dictator of famously long interminable monologues.  Smart move.

To read more click here and here.

What’s your PR verdict on Castro’s PR strategy?

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Rattling the Vatican’s Cage and Telling All.

vatican21 Rattling the Vaticans Cage and Telling All.

The PR Verdict: "B" for the Vatican Leaker.

Headline news and colorful photos coming out of the Vatican this weekend concerned the admission of 22 new cardinals. However what generated far more attention in the lead up to the ceremony was the constant drip feed of damaging confidential information coming from unknown Vatican sources.

Recent leaks of internal information to the media have covered a multitude of issues including allegations of financial mismanagement, money laundering, political cronyism and sensitive security data. The unauthorised and unflattering news has hastened pressure for reform as succession plans take shape for the 84-year-old Pontiff.   Vying factions seem intent on destabilizing the status quo and are preparing to take the reins when their moment comes.

The Vatican spokesman responded to the wave of leaks by commenting, “We must resist and not allow ourselves to be swallowed by the whirlpool of confusion, which is what those with bad intentions want.”

The PR Verdict: “B” for the Vatican leaker whoever you are. The strategy to weaken management by having it respond to numerous unforeseen crises seems to be working and has the current leadership defensive and distracted.

Leaking is always an effective way for internal stakeholders to get what they want without having to argue the case publicly. The oldest trick in the book is to confuse and distract current management so that it is vulnerable to being displaced or sidelined. When the top spokesman refers to “whirlpools of confusion” its clear that attempts to destabilize are working their magic. The Pontiff and his spokesman might want to take up The Prince by Machiavelli for some bedtime reading.

To read more click here.