VATICAN - Mgr. Harrington to the Bishops: "We need to rethink communication, putting the recipients of the message at the center"

Friday, 9 September 2022 evangelization   social communications   bishops   pontifical mission societies  

Rome (Agenzia Fides) - The recipients and the way they use the message (targeting), narrative reporting (storytelling) and the means by which the recipients are reached (delivery) are the three pillars on which communication, said Msgr. Kieran Harrington, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the USA, at the seminar for newly appointed Bishops organized by the Dicastery of Evangelization in Rome (see Fides, 2/9/2022).
Msgr. Harrington spoke about the "fundamentals" of communication, which he combined with real-life experiences, giving specific examples and tailoring each section of his speech to not only the primary needs of a newly elected bishop, but also of the means available inn order to be able to communicate effectively in the context of the mass media.
Msgr. Harrington urged starting any communicative discourse with the listener and asking questions that help focus on the recipient of the content, on who the message is intended to reach. He urged the Bishops to have the courage to change and to rethink communication, quoting a passage from Evangelii Gaudium (33): "Pastoral ministry in a missionary key seeks to abandon the complacent attitude that says 'we have always done it this way'. I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communities. A proposal of goals without an adequate communal search for the means of achieving them will inevitably prove illusory".
With regard to successful storytelling, Msgr. Harrington emphasized the need to identify stories and testimonies within one's communities that can reach recipients and listeners in a direct, empathetic way: "To be effective", he explained, "the story will change the way we act, it must be told in a simple and understandable way, it must be close to the listener's feelings; in some cases it will also be an invitation to concrete action".
Referring to the traditional means of communication (press agencies, television and radio), Msgr. Harrington recalled their fundamental importance in the world of information, but denounced their partial inadequacy in today's fully digital context, where social networks (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram , Whatsapp, Telegram, etc.) play an essential role in communication. The National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States, using data on Asia, Africa and South America, highlighted the exponential growth of digital media in these continents and the changes that this has brought about, especially the speed of the news, also responding notably to Twitter and citing the example of Pope Francis.
In the second part of his presentation, Msgr. Harrington then offered practical insights, urging bishops to plan their pastoral calendars to organize effective communication and also to lean on their own "pantries" to ensure that their message is more widely disseminated (committed lay people, teachers, educators, leaders of religious groups or movements, entrepreneurs, etc.) He concluded by addressing the issue of crisis communication management, which requires a clear message, entrusting the message to the right tools needed to enable quick action. (EG) (Agenzia Fides, 9/9/2022)