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.