COMMENT: EDITORIAL; Praying for a PR miracle cure

The Church is having a bad hair week. Not only has the former Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie found his unguarded remarks about Prince Charles broadcast to the world, but its latest ad campaign has met with scorn, even from within its own ranks.

The Church is having a bad hair week. Not only has the former Archbishop

of Canterbury Robert Runcie found his unguarded remarks about Prince

Charles broadcast to the world, but its latest ad campaign has met with

scorn, even from within its own ranks.



If ever there were an organisation crying out for public relations help

it is the Church. Its attempts at modernising its image consistently

fall flat, mainly because it has not understood the fundamental PR

principle that the product must live up to the message you are trying to

promote.



Simply sticking ‘yoof’ culture slogans on a 48- sheet poster will not

make the Church more appealing. On the contrary, it makes it look

ridiculous because the image is apparently so at odds with reality. What

next - replacing the goblet of communion wine with a gobbet of

Thickhead?



At the same time it consistently fails to successfully manage its media

relations, with the result that most of its coverage concerns bad news -

its own internal wranglings, loose cannon bishops, rave ‘9 o’clock’

services, or yet another duff advertising campaign.



The Church’s PR problems are that it has no clearly defined and

centrally organised PR strategy, and that its position - as part of the

establishment, yet without power - has apparently robbed its leaders of

the ability to speak out, except in the most anodyne terms.



Yet, given a client with a wide ranging remit to comment on almost any

issue in the news, most PR people would think it easy to score a

success.



The opportunity is certainly there. Research from the Henley Centre’s

Planning for Social Change surveys has identified a trend which it calls

the ‘death of deference’ - whereby public confidence in institutions

such as government, the judiciary and the monarchy has sharply declined

over the last decade.



What better chance for the Church to provide some leadership, or at

least offer something tangible for people to react against. In other

words, it needs to become relevant by expressing its philosoply through

topical commentary, not by tarting itself up in fashionable slogans.



Yet on almost every occasion when the Church is presented with an

opportunity to take a lead, it flunks it. Dr Runcie’s off-the-record

remarks are probably the most significant utterances a senior cleric has

made throughout the long drawn out death of the Wales’ marriage.



One thing is certain. If the Church continues to fail to address its PR

problems and goes on sitting on the fence, the public will soon not much

care on which side it eventually falls.



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