Comms may need a revamp, says Church

The Archbishop of Canterbury's top PR adviser has suggested the Church of England (CofE) is looking at shaking up its comms following last week's disastrous Sharia law speech.

Archbishop: in the firing line
Archbishop: in the firing line

Dr Rowan Williams' public affairs secretary Tim Livesey heads a team of four at Lambeth House, operating separately from the CofE's ten-strong official comms ­office led by head of comms Peter Crumpler.

This week Livesey refused to reveal whether Williams had sought PR input before making his controversial speech, saying he would not answer any questions on ‘process'. But Livesey admitted: ‘We need to look at how this has run and see how we can make changes.'

Livesey has been in the role since February 2006. Before that, he was assistant ­director for strategy and ­information at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Luther Pendragon founder and St Bride's Church cur­ate George Pitcher said of Livesey: ‘I understand he's a first-class policy adviser, but don't know how experienced he is with the media.'

The Church's media tactics before and after the speech have provoked criticism.

Christina Rees, a member of the CofE general synod and the Archbishops' Council, said: ‘I would have to say that if you look at it strictly in PR terms, what followed was a PR disaster. It became a crisis.' She added: ‘There were various stages where the PR function could have helped to minimise the hostility of the press.'

Senior journalists also slammed the Church's handling of the media. Press Associa­tion special correspondent George Jones said: ‘I don't know what his media team advised him about his speech or whether it did and he didn't listen, but it doesn't appear to have been very well handled.'

He suggested Williams should bring in a PR heavyweight. ‘There are a number of people who can help him get his message across.'

Meanwhile, the Archbishop of York appears to be more media savvy, having launched a Facebook campaign for Lent. Dr John Sentamu is using the social networking site to call for ‘a safer and more pleasant env­ironment in the real world'.

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