Avoid the PRism, address the PRinciples

pope FrancisThe Grand Old Party has been soul searching since its loss in November, seeking ways to win back the hearts of voters.  With the election of its new Pope, a grand old religion has been soul searching as well.  Both venerable institutions understand their significant challenges; both face a constituency that has drifted away from principles that seem out of step with the changes in the worlds they are trying to lead.

Much has been said lately about both the Republican Party’s and the Catholic Church’s public relations challenges.  Wrote Michael Sebastion in PR Daily on March 14: “To embrace change, the church must overhaul its communication efforts. For instance, Cardinal Donald William Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, told The Wall Street Journal that the church needs a fresh way of presenting its message. ‘Communications are going to be a big part of that,’ said Cardinal Wuerl said. ‘We have moved into this world of rapid communications. That’s all part of the new evangelization.'”

Sarah_Palin_by_Gage_Skidmore_2[1]“We have more evidence that the GOP has a serious public image problem that, if not dealt with soon, will pose serious problems with the GOP in election years to come,” wrote Doug Mataconis in the February 27 issue of Outside the Beltway. “First up, there’s a new survey from Pew showing that, while voters see the GOP as principled, they also consider the party as being out of step with the country…Numbers like this explain quite well why the GOP consistently seems to be losing public relations battles with the president regardless of what the issue gripping the nation happens to be.”

The church must effectively address its sex abuse scandal before it worries about PR.  The GOP must embrace a new platform to better answer a changing America.  A PR manager’s seat at the table is supremely important when major decisions are made, but policy cannot be made soley through a PR prism; only true fundamental change for both institutions will move public opinion.  Such change may be easier for the GOP than the Vatican, but public relations shouldn’t come before performance.  Your thoughts?

P.S. On March 14, 1983 I began my career a PR practitioner. It’s been an amazing run and I can’t wait to see what the next 30 years will bring!

 

49 thoughts on “Avoid the PRism, address the PRinciples

  1. Erica Barnes

    It is a huge step for these two organizations to realize how severely lacking they are in terms of PR and communication in general. Although the Catholic Church’s sex scandals might be a very difficult thing to atone for, it would go a long way if the Church and the Vatican could become much more transparent with the public. Instead of treating these scandals with a “hush hush” mentality, it might be beneficial to address the situations in a public manner.

    Reply
  2. Alex Packer

    I agree with a lot of the comments that people have already made. While PR, when effectively utilized, can do much to sway the opinions of the public, it is our responsibility as PR practitioners to be sure that we do so in an honest fashion. If the GOP and the Church do not make fundamental changes internally then PR will not be able to persuade the public through ethical means.

    Reply
  3. Mia D'Angelo

    The GOP and the Church both share a prevalent common characteristic, rich historical roots and reputations in our world today. Therefore, it is not shocking to see their hesitation in embracing new communications tools when they emerge in society. Yet, it is becoming more and more apparent that change is necessary. I understand this is a risk, but in society today it is a becoming mandatory in a sense, to embrace new methods of communication. In this case, the pros largely outweigh the cons and if these two institutions do not start diversifying their communications techniques their reputation and image can only get worse.

    Reply
  4. aciardullo

    The Church needs to address its’ issues first before any public relations team can come in and help them. If they don’t take the blame and discuss what happened, there is no hope for any PR team to turn their image around.

    Reply
  5. stevenpmorin

    I don’t know if there’s much hope for the GOP, or more importantly, if there will be much effort to change. The GOP is a party that is focused on conservative values, i.e., it is focused on suiting the needs of those who do not want to change, social, technological, and otherwise. The religious audience is exactly the same. Both of these will be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, and with each advance society makes, these two will lose their power until they are defeated.

    Reply
  6. Alex Hyman

    There is only so much that PR can do. There have been so many negative things that have come out of the Catholic Church that it has ruined its reputation for a lot of people. It is important to have good public relations and for things such as the Catholic Church and GOP, some of the negative outcry can be outlasted if they were to work on their PR.

    Reply
  7. Helen Masha

    The GOP and the Church have to learn to recognize what the public wants and what it wants is honesty and to be involved in the decisions. In the past both has taken serious blows and instead of fixing the issue and then worrying about PR the performance has taken a back seat. There needs to be a revamping of performance before future PR strategies can be discussed.

    Reply
  8. alexis gionesi

    As you’ve told our class on numerous occasions, good PR must start with good performance. Without performance to back up a statement, nothing said could be held credible. The GOP and the Church both have to prove themselves before a PR team can bring attention to their behaviors.

    Reply
  9. gionnacerniglia

    Before PR can step in and make their move, the Catholic Church must address the sex abuse scandal and the GOP must embrace a new platform like you have said. They both need to adapt to the new modern technology. Actions by the church needs to happen before PR people do !

    Reply
  10. blarouche

    PR is certainly important both instance but I think that before either group can really focus on a successful campaign there has to be performance. The GOP and the Church both have to prove that they can perform according to the social standards that they claim to before a PR team can bring attention to the positive behavior. If the behavior isn’t already there people will only take things they’re pitched with a grain of salt.

    Reply
  11. AndreaRebello

    As PR people, we strive to keep up with the media and its latest advancements. However, when it comes to the Catholic Church, their main focus is not keeping up with the media and it’s latest trends. The Catholic Church is an institution that is based on religion and the bible, making it’s beliefs set in stole and unchangeable. I feel that the Catholic Church must solve its problems and scandals internally before PR people step in and try to fix their image externally. There is only so much a PR professional can do, and lying to the public is not part of the job description.

    Reply
  12. Kristen Kelly

    In any large organization, communication is a crucial element in the way they are portrayed by the public. With modern day technology and the changes that have come along in the past decade, the way the Republican Party and the Catholic Church reach their followers must change accordingly. Delivering key messages and their views on controversial topics that affect their followers must be done in every way possible that reaches their target audiences.

    In Michael Sebastions March 14th PR Daily post, he mentions the top challenges that Pope Francis will need to confront. He must show that he wants to communicate and seem like a strong communicator and listener, get hands on with social media, take the message beyond social media and embrace face-to-face communications, deliver their messages in way that people can understand it, believe in it, relate to it and implement it, and to create a dialogue about tough topics to avoid the risk of becoming even more irrelevant to modern society. These challenges the Pope will face must be addressed first by him before PR. But the Pope must be passionate in the way he decides to face these challenges so that he can create a positive image for himself and the church.

    Doug Mataconis states that the numbers in recent surveys show “while voters see the GOP as principled, they also consider the party as being out of step with the country.” He goes on to say that it’s difficult to gather near-majorities of the public to your side when they have a negative view of your party. The GOP needs to start reaching out to other parties, not just their own, just as Ronald Regan did by gaining support from Independents and Democrats. The Republican Party needs to recognize the problems that came out of the Bush years, which have taken a toll on the way voters view the party as a whole, in order to gain back support from voters lost after Bush, and potentially gain more.

    I 100% agree that the church needs to address the sex abuse scandal and that the GOP must embrace a new platform, all before worrying about PR. PR comes into play when delivering the messages to the public, but it can’t change and reformat the church or the GOP. That’s something that they need to do themselves to enhance their performance and create a TRUE image before PR comes into play.

    Reply
  13. Hunter F. (@kristintellsall)

    Personally, when it comes to politics and religions no one is a shining star when it comes to PR. Everyone has there part that they have to work on and everyone shines in a certain way as well. I don’t think it’s just the catholic or republic party that need help. So many groups are corrupt these days that it’s hard to sort out the true ones.

    Reply
  14. kerrischreiber

    The Catholic church is in no way changing. The church is not based on the market model and will not change with what us as consumers want. The church is based on belief and the bible and that is it. There is only one way that PR could help and that could be through making sure none of these scandals happen or find their way in the public’s eye. Media love when the church messes up because it makes for a great story to shape their image. For instance, not many people in the US know but in Latin America there has been a huge scandal with Jorge Bergoglio during the “Dirty War”. Bergoglio was allegedy said to have been hiding Argentine cizitizen’s in his holiday home in El Silencio in the River plate. His main charge was for kidnapping two priests but has denied any charges. Maybe there was a good PR person in this scandal that hasn’t made this the front page when Bergoglio was elected as Pope.

    Reply
  15. diane

    In my opinion, the Catholic Church and Grand Old Party should focus on their image before PR people step in and do their part. If both institutions act correctly, they will have a good image automatically. There is only so much PR can do to fix and image so if the institutions are not doing their part, PR cannot completely help.

    Reply
  16. Amanda Torres

    Much like we have learned in PR 100, there is nothing a publicist can do if the product/individual/organization does not perform well. Performance is key in public relations.

    Reply
  17. Ian Poulos

    While I agree that the Catholic Church could benefit from a better communications strategy, I do not think that it should change its message or the set of morals it represents. Although today’s world is more liberal than it was decades ago, the fundamentals the Church seeks to uphold are still valid today. The sex abuse scandal cannot be ignored, and the maladies of a few individuals should be addressed quickly so as not to destroy an age-old institution. That said, I think there is a lot the Church can gain by more actively engaging with the public. Maybe it should spend the next few years crystallizing its core messages through social media campaigns while attempting to reach a larger – and perhaps younger – audience.
    In my mind, the issue the GOP faces is similar. While the party has certainly been lacking from a public relations standpoint, I think its issue revolves around the actual message it purports. The Republican Party has a reputation of siding with older, upper class individuals. Statistically, the majority of people in the United States are not upper class, so, in this sense, they are limiting their target audience to a select few. I think that the GOP’s future PR campaign needs to be focused on changing its message so as to appeal to a broader array of people.

    Reply
  18. Kellianne

    I believe that you need to address your morals and principles before PR, but PR comes hand in hand with that as well. Obviously the Pope is in the spot light so they have to be very careful how they communicate with the public and the opinions of the public. It should be interesting to see how the new Pope interacts with social media to address certain issues.

    Reply
  19. EMC

    This is so tough for an institution like the Catholic Church. Public Relations these days is closely associated with a sense of liberalism, particularly with social media. If it was odd to see politicians move online and develop PR tactics for the 21st century, I can’t imagine what the Catholic Church would do. Image can be improved with various techniques to engage the changing world, such as younger more engaging representatives. But in all honesty, I have no idea what the Catholic Church can affectively do to improve their public image, besides changing their views.

    Reply
  20. Carrie Walker

    I feel like both institutions have some cleaning up to do within their own communities before PR can even help them. They need to actually change the way they handle situations and then use PR to illustrate to the public how they are changing.

    Reply
  21. Nicole Botsaris

    Both the GOP and the Church clearly have some image issues that need to be cleaned up but PR is only a business platform that can help, not completely solve the problem.

    Reply
  22. Nicole Chiarella

    PR is meant to help not to take on all of the responsibilities of others. The Church is outdated and many Catholics do not agree with the Church but are still practicing. I think that the Pope that was chosen may bring good and do well but also why wouldn’t they pick a younger Pope? In my opinion maybe they are afraid of the thought that a younger Pope could be running the Church for more than 20 years. Change is good and there should be no reason why anyone should be one sided.

    Reply
  23. rcardno91

    The Roman Catholic Church has consistantly been against changes of any kind. No institution in history has ever adapted as slowly to changing times as the Church. I know that the beliefs of the Vatican do not align with Darwinism or the theory of evolution but the Church needs to realize that it must adapt to survive. The Church has never been faced with a more rapidly changing society than it is today. With the election of a new Pope the Church has the opportunity to usher in some much needed changes. Hopefully Pope Francis I iwll be able to steer the Church (and its one billion followers) in the right direction.

    Reply
  24. Brenna Harran

    Both institutions, the GOP and the Catholic Church, should worry about their image and performance before what PR can do. With good performance comes a good image. As times are changing, they need to progress with a updated, refreshed image. PR can help make an image look better and more understanding but if obvious problems are still out in the open you will not get very far.

    Reply
  25. Amanda Daley

    There is only so much PR can do to help a situation. Public Relations cannot fabricate stories in order to cover up the truth about their clients, so if the organization isn’t willing to change its ways, there is not much PR can do to help.

    Reply
  26. ccorte6

    I completely agree that policy should come before PR. Everything seems great when you present it with the right words, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that your actions may not match your words. It is practice like that that gives PR the bad name of being spinsters. Especially for the Catholic Church, an organization that is supposed to stand for “good morals,” you would think they would take all these cases of sexual abuse very seriously. It is shameful that they aren’t.

    Reply
  27. nikkigyftopoulos

    This post brings up a very important issue that is prevalent in the PR industry. Institutions can not rely just on PR to change, maintain, or fix their image. Changes in the institution’s actions must happen in order for the PR specialists to be successful in their job. This directly relates to the idea that actions speak louder than words. Both the GOP and the church have received some negative backlash and they need to make changes to fix their public image. Relying on solely PR to fix their issues will not work. Our society is changing and developing everyday and, as a result, our values are also shifting into a new realm. The morals and beliefs of the everyday America have drastically changed since 50 years ago. Because of this, the GOP and the church need to develop themselves in a way that maintains a positive image and still allows them to be successful in what they do.

    Reply
  28. Marissa Dombkowski

    I agree that both institutions must have fundamental change in order to really move public opinion. Public relations should not come first. There are changes that need to be made and issues that need to be addressed before public relations and good communication can come into play. Once change is made, then communication tactics can be planned to really make things even better.

    Reply
  29. Shurida Lundi

    I try not to bring my religion into my any other place besides the church but no matter what the church will always be criticized for something especially the Catholic religion and their constant issues with the Pope. So many scandals have occurred with previous Popes that now the Catholic church has to find a way to address those issues and reassure the people that these events will not happen with the new Pope.
    By the way, the Pope was tweeting the other day, I was so confused by it.

    Reply
  30. ejm1059

    Just like the name, the Grand Old Party is out of date and out of touch. As a Democrat, a woman, a African-American, and a young voter I could give you a list of missteps the GOP made in the last election that lead to their downfall. However, it all boils down to their lack of awareness of the progressive nature this country is going. Some of the ideals that might’ve been accepted years ago, isn’t going to fly in 2013. They are really going to have to buckle down if they want to dominate next years election.

    I was talking to my Irish Catholic suite mate a few weeks ago and I asked her what she hoped for the new Pope. She told me that she hoped that the new Pope would be progressive, a little more open minded, and will acknowledge the scandals happening within the Church. Now, it’s a tad different with the Church because it has been a holy institution for thousands of years. However, they have got to find a way to move with the modern world but still hold on to the ancient principles that make up the Catholic Church. Personally, I think if they faced the sex abuse scandals head on and cracked down on the men who were/are responsible then they would garner a lot of support. As we have seen, just brushing the issue under the carpet and pretending it doesn’t exist will only be another crack in the Church’s foundation.

    Reply
  31. Kelly Schnitzer

    There’s no doubt that American values and ideals are changing. As a libertarian that votes Republican, I think it is imperative that the GOP make their policies more contemporary (in terms of their social platform) before the next major election. I think it is also vital for the party to find young, new figure heads to coincide with the overhaul. The truth is, the GOP needs to rebrand their image to correspond with America’s shifting ideals. If not, they run the risk of continually losing future elections.

    As for the Catholic church, they need to reconcile with the entire world before they are (fully) back in good graces. The whole Nazi scandal with Pope Benedict XVI tainted the Papal image. Good news is, the Catholic Church seems to bounce back from ignominy fairly quickly (as evident by its scandalous past yet its continual, prevalent reverence).

    Reply
  32. LucieSorel

    The number one rule in PR that I have learned thus far is that the company or brand must follow through with what they make their image to be. For instance, the GOP must first act honestly and openly to restore a good image in the public eye. The catholic church has scene scandal in recent years and must first fix the problems entirely before making the public trusting again. This means no priests touching little boys; this issue needs to be taken care of first and foremost. Once the negative instances seise, the positive image will be easier to obtain.

    Reply
  33. bluelenex

    I mean, in this day in age we would advise anyone to step up on the PR platform and jump on social media opportunities, be as transparent as possible, etc, but I don’t know if the Church should be part of that. I mean, look at how awkward we would feel if the Pope was tweeting or the Church put itself on Facebook or something. I feel like the Church is one of the only organizations that can get away with staying as showy and secretive as they are because they have so much history. It’s going to be harder for them to change, and while they technically should, is it so bad to want to hang onto the past where they’re rooted?

    Reply
    1. jmorosoff Post author

      You may have missed this, but Pope Benedict WAS tweeting! And I suspect the new pope will do so as well. So the church can–and must–communicate with people where people are receiving their messages.

      Reply
      1. ejm1059

        Yeah, I was about to say! The Pope did have his own twitter account (have no clue if the new one has one now.) Heck, even the Dalai Lama has his own Twitter account. Nobody is too good for social media anymore!

        Reply
  34. caliannfornia

    I think that the GOP really is behind when it comes to good PR and technology. This kind of reminds me of one of your previous posts. I think that matters need to be handled right away especially at the source of the problem but I think it needs to be addressed outwardly as soon as possible as well. When things get put off it seems almost suspicious and people begin to wonder why it took someone so long to address is.

    Reply
  35. Mara Ruocco

    I think that old reputations can be restored with new ones, and the only way to do that is to take action. Public relations can certainly help make their images positive but actions speak louder than words. But I do think that the church is on it’s way to a better public image.

    Reply
  36. Jeremy Beck

    The fact remains that regarding these two institutions, what people are looking for is a more in-touch, progressive attitude. No matter what their PR personnel do the essence is still the content of the message. People aren’t looking for more information they are looking for the message to be consistent with new relateable actions.

    Reply
  37. Jenny Rowe

    I agree with some of the previous comments in which the Church is extremely out of date, yet I believe that with a lot of hard work, they can maintain a better public image. This post makes it very clear that PR is vital for everything, including church and state.

    Reply
  38. Lauren Ciuzio

    I agree. Yes every cause must have a good PR practitioner, but it is not only their responsibility to represent their image. There needs to be good internal work, to be represented externally.

    Reply
  39. Claire T.

    As we’ve said in class, the only way to uphold good PR is by good performance. Both the Republican Party and the Catholic church need to make sure they’re living up to their image – and if they don’t like the image they have, PR can only do so much to cover up what’s true.

    Reply
  40. Brittni Hicks

    I completely agree that the PR should never overcompensate for performance. Publicists cannot lie about the work their clients are doing, the performance needs to be there to back up the publicity.

    Reply
  41. aunaturalenyc

    Firstly, congrats on your 30 PR years professor! As an outsider of both the catholic and republican parties, I haven’t focused much on their PR advances. I know that their struggles with the media have been very similar as you discussed, and they are constantly being watched or criticized. This just shows that every aspect of life includes the need for some sort of media relations and/or PR.

    Reply
  42. Sarah Caruso

    The Catholic Church is about 200 years out of date, if not more. Cleaning up their image is not going to change the fact that the church, throughout history, has only ever wanted to control people with their preachings of fire and brimstone. They used to be all powerful and had control over the world but times have changed and they have lost all their power, they just haven’t realized it yet. PR can fix many organizations, but they will NEVER be able to fix the Catholic Church.

    Reply
    1. jmorosoff Post author

      You’re right–PR will not “fix” the church…and the point here is that the church must first fix whatever needs fixing; a PR strategy is only as good as the institution being represented.

      Reply
  43. Bert Cunningham

    On point, as always. And congrats on 30 years as a true PR pro, teacher and mentor. My how time flies!

    Reply
  44. gmcillo

    I agree that PR should not come before performance. It is important that clients, companies and organizations “clear the air” before a PR practitioner tires to enhance their image. They will not be able to move ahead until problems of the past are addressed.

    Reply
  45. Annik Spencer

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I completely agree that the PR should never come before performance. PR practitioners cannot ever LIE about what their client, company or organization is doing, so they would need performance to back up their PR!

    Reply
  46. janabanana12

    We all know that there is a separation of church and state, but the Church is constantly being watched and criticized. Public Relations are important for the GOP and the church, but without addressing and trying to fix the issues that concern them, they will not be able to look at the big picture. Everyone receives a bad rap at times, but two very different yet very public institutions need to be able to do their job while still maintaining a good public image.

    Reply

Leave a Reply