In the Church Times, The Rev. George Pitcher, former Secretary for Public Affairs to the Archbishop of Canterbury, offers some practical advice for how religious institutions can reframe media reports about their activities and conflicts by how they deal with reporters.
Define the issues: prioritise the crucial questions with which the Church is faced, and go for them. Civil unrest, poverty, children’s mental health? We need to lead on issues, not be kicked about by them.
Stop being a victim: get on the front foot, and stop whingeing about how badly you are treated. This is not Pakistan or Palestine, and you are not being persecuted; so use your freedom. Head-butt the bullies, by which I mean give as good as you get: journalists respect, albeit grudgingly, those who fight back….
Integrate: we are the weft and warp of society, not an institution within it; so weave yourselves into the fabric of the media, instead of lecturing to or complaining about them. That means getting among them. Otherwise, it will always be them and us….
Walk the walk: we really are all in this together (unlike the political slogan); so press officers need to step up to the plate and say what they think. Don’t hide behind “The bishop believes . . .”
Allow access: there are far too many gatekeepers, and too few matchmakers. Let the media in. Sometimes you’ll regret it, but that is the price of all the times you won’t.
I’d be curious to know what those on this side of the pond think – especially diocesan communications officers.