It’s more important now than ever before for the Catholic Church to connect with its people in order to retain and grow its devoted following. As the formal leader of 1.2 billion Catholics and head of state at the Vatican, Pope Francis is uniquely positioned to have dramatic social and spiritual influence on not only his followers, but the world. 3 PR Pointers From Pope Francis
Since his recent ordination in March of this year, he has done just that—all while garnering a plethora of accolades from a variety of cultures, races and religions. As it turns out, what the Catholic Church needed most was not just another Pope, but a master of public relations – and Francis is the right man for the job.
There are three PR practices that the Pope executes better than just about anybody – and there’s a learning opportunity here for individuals and organizations alike.
1. Do something remarkable and embrace it
Pope Francis has strategically diverted from the papal paths of his predecessors in an effort to humanize the Catholic Church and develop personal connections with his followers. Known for having a simpler and less formal approach to the papacy, Francis resides in the Vatican guesthouse rather than the Apostolic Palace used by the popes before him. On the night of his election, he refused traditional vestments in favor of a modest wardrobe and took a bus back to his hotel instead of riding in the bullet-proof papal car. Time and time again the pope has shrugged off ceremonious traditions, made personal phone calls to complete strangers and broken protocol regarding Vatican visitors. He is proud of his humble, yet different, approach to the papacy and doesn’t intend to change any time soon.
2. Know your target audience and tailor your messaging to them
The Pope has made it known that connecting with young Catholics is an essential step in ensuring the future of the Church. He is often outspoken about his respect for young peoples’ nonconformity, the importance of listening to them and the opportunity to give them places to express feelings and opinions. In light of the evolving social landscape and the general open-minded position young people take on issues like gay rights, Pope Francis has voiced a position that is seen as notably less judgmental than those of his predecessors. Not only are his verbal messages tailored to young Catholics, but his actions as well.
3. Leverage social media
Pope Francis understands the prevalence of social media in the lives of young Catholics and seeks to embrace it himself. Following in the footsteps of his predecessor Benedict XVI (the first Pope to use social media), Francis maintains an active Twitter account (@Pontifex) that broadcasts messages to connect with nearly three million followers. And his eagerness to relate to his target audience goes even further—last week Francis made headlines around the world with the first papal “selfie”, in which he posed in front of a camera phone to take a picture with teenagers visiting St. Peter’s Basilica. The selfie has since been tweeted tens of thousands of times and has earned coverage on media outlets like Huffington Post, Yahoo News, CNN and many more.
3 PR Pointers From Pope Francis
Since Pope Francis’ election in March, he has made clear his intentions to rebrand the Catholic Church by connecting with young people and restoring the papacy to a less formal, more relatable position. His strategic approach to PR has made this campaign a reality in the past year. Through remarkable actions, tailored messaging and social media influence, Francis has finally set the stage for the Catholic Church’s reformation into the 21st century—and it’s better late than never.
Learn more about how to leverage earned media for your rebranding strategy with the Inbound Marketer’s Guide to Earned Media.
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