A recording for a BBC Radio 2 documentary at 8am this morning in London. Then the Chris Evans Show Pause for Thought on 'imagination'. Then a keynote conference address on communications challenges facing the church (mostly posed by the digital age and social media). Then a panel discussion at the Cheltenham Literature Festival on religion and the media. A bit of a busy one.
My points at the communications conference were basically:
- Churches need to (a) develop competence in understanding the particular media and the languages hat need to be spoken in order for different audiences to hear.
- Churches need to move from a reactive to a proactive mind-set – shaping the agenda/discourse, not always responding to it.
- Contemporary media demand (a) interactivity and (b) interconnectivity.
There is no longer any one-way traffic in terms of putting a message out there. We need to see what we put out as the first and not the last word. This demands the humility of learning and the confidence to drop defensiveness. Yes, we need to increase media and communications literacy – particularly with bishops and diocesan gate-keepers. 'Communications' is no longer what we do once we have done the business; communication is integral to our business. Therefore, communications professionals need to be at the heart of diocesan structures, around the table for any diocesan discussions, and looking at all aspects of diocesan life through a communications lens.
The challenge is to listen, learn, flex and be unafraid of risk or failure.
This evening's discussion at the Cheltenham Literature Festival was mediated by Michael Wakelin, former Head of Religion and Ethics at the BBC. The panelists were me, Lucy Winkett, Abdul-Rehman Malik and Sarah Joseph. We covered a number of elements of religion and media and I tried to be more positive about (particularly) social media. We covered matters of religious literacy on the part of media professionals, but also the need for religious practitioners to master the media they wish to work in. Incompetence is not over-ruled by some idea of the vitality of any 'message'.
One woman had a bit of a rant after the event. I couldn't quite work out why such rudeness was supposed to commend her atheism to me. Funnily enough, I agreed with some of her complaints about the church, but couldn't see why she was telling me all this in such an aggressive way.