Hey Catholics! Public Relations is NOT a Dirty “Word!”

When discussing catechesis and evangelization, I am very comfortable using the phrases such as  “public relations” (PR) or marketing, and find that I often encounter push back.

“The Church is not trying to win a public relations battle!”

“Proclaiming the Gospel is not a popularity contest!”

“The Church is not about public relations!”

The conclusion that many people draw is that public relations and marketing necessitate altering the content of your core beliefs. That is a fallacy. According to the Public Relations Society of America, “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

I would hope that one of the goals of catechesis and evangelization – proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ – is to build mutually beneficial relationships between the Church and those we serve.

Public relations is the art of recognizing and influencing how one is being perceived. One way to change how you’re being perceived, of course, is to change your message…that’s called flip-flopping and it happens so much, especially in politics, that it gives PR a bad name. However, you can stay true to your message and still utilize PR strategies to ensure that your message is received in a positive light. A lot of that has to do with not only WHAT you believe and WHY you believe it but in HOW you get that message across.

I personally think that the Catholic Church right now is suffering from absolutely horrible public relations strategies. So much of our approach boils down to, “this is what we believe and why we believe it and if you don’t like it, tough.” We’re very big on WHAT we believe and WHY we believe it, but lack horribly in HOW we present those notions to others. Author Simon Sinek (Start With Why) reminds us that “We live in a tangible world. The only way people will know what you believe is by the things you say and do, and if you’re not consistent in the things you say and do, no one will know what you believe. ”

What we need as a Church is more consistency between what we say and what we do (how we say it). Catechesis and evangelization rely on more than just words…they rely on perception and perception is influenced more by actions than by words. You would think that a sacramental church like ours – one that believes in the centrality of sign and symbol – would do a better job of communicating with the public at the symbolic level (i.e. paying close attention to HOW we get our message across in addition to WHAT our message is).

What do you think about the role of public relations and marketing in the Church?

Related links:

About Joe Paprocki 2751 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.

1 Comment on Hey Catholics! Public Relations is NOT a Dirty “Word!”

  1. Awesome post Joe! I agree wholeheartedly that the Church can do a greater job of relating the Truths we possess. I think Cardinal Dolan has been a great recent example of how to explain to the world WHY we believe WHAT we do. He truly embraces himself with confidence and is infectious with his humor and wit. His recent interview on Sirius radio brought in celebrities like Matt Lauer and Joe Torre, now that’s a way to advertise the beauty of the Faith to the world! God bless!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.