Here is the evaluation of one of the participants in the Communications Session, which has just taken place in Rome from May 27 to June 2, 2018. The text has been shortened and adapted for this article.
Recently, I came across a WhatsApp status that said, “My boss is a Jewish carpenter.” It really touched me. It made me think about how Jesus, a simple Jewish carpenter, managed to attract large crowds. His message is still so powerful today that there are 1.2 billion faithful in the world. Questioning what made him such a famous preacher, I discovered that his message was concise, creative, credible, accurate. The media and communication workshop helped us to know that to be effective in our communication, we must follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. This workshop helped us realize that we need to become good communicators by using the social media that are available to us.
The media and communication workshop allowed us (10 participants representing different provinces of the Society) to know where we are at the communication level and how to move forward. We needed a professional to help us and Sr Marides Santos came to our rescue. At the beginning of our meeting on strategic planning, Fr. Philippe Docq told us that it would be a paperless meeting. Which means that everything would be done numerically. And, indeed, we have succeeded.
The first day began with a small presentation of the experience that each of us has of the communication in his place of mission and his dreams and expectations for a better communication in the Society. It was very interesting to hear how confreres engage in the field of communication in their mission.
We spent three days developing a strategic plan for better communication. Sr Marides highlighted the results of the survey made in the different provinces and sectors as three important elements of a communication plan. Those are:
- Define and agree on the purpose of the communication
- Formulate and use appropriate communication strategies.
- Explore options to create a greater impact.
After reviewing these elements, we have developed a realistic strategic plan that we should be able to achieve over the next five years. This strategic plan details important aspects of the purpose of communication, communication strategies and the creation of larger impacts. Each of these aspects contains its goals, objectives and action plans. Properly implemented, the strategic plan will help the entire Society to greatly improve our communication in our mission.
Identity and Branding – “I am the message”.
After three days of tireless planning, Fr. Philippe introduced us to Professor Sean-Patrick Lovett, who told us about identity, branding, making us understand that “I am the message”. Initially, we thought he was a priest, but in fact, he is a layman, father of two boys, eminent professor of communication to the Gregorian University and in the United States, at the head of the department which is responsible for the social-media of the Pope Francis. We had with him a very rich exchange. What I have learned personally is that we need a “common brand” for our Society, a common logo, corresponding to who we are and what we do, accepted and understood by all. Some provinces associate the pelican image with the Society and others use different images, but it is important to use a common logo that will identify us with our Society. Secondly, as Missionaries of Africa, he emphasized the fact that “we are the message”, a message of hope for the world. He told us that one day a group of students from an American University asked him how was it possible that the Church survived for the last 2000 years? And his answer was: If the Church survives, it is because it always gives people a message of hope. Who can be a message of hope, if not us, the disciples of Jesus Christ? Professor Sean is a great communicator, he made us laugh, he made us understand communication, and he made us think about how each of us can be a message of hope for the world.
Story telling and Gospel marketing.
Thursday afternoon, we were introduced to Father Fabrizio, a Comboni missionary, very involved in communication. Young people do not like reading long articles, he said. How can we capture the public’s attention with whom we communicate? He assured us that one of the ways to capture the attention of people, especially young people, is to present the message through short video clips. He gave us as an example the recent video clip of France where a Malian migrant saved a baby from the balcony. This video clip has been viewed by millions of people around the world. It was short, real, emotional, all it takes to touch the hearts of people today. Likewise, he said, if we want our mission to be effective, if we want to be effective communicators, we need to use a lot of video clips in our social media. He did not bother us with theory, but, on the contrary, he invited us to something practical. He divided us into two groups, gave us a theme and asked us to make a video clip (see below). We enjoyed this exercise, it was the opportunity to discover talents of actors, cinematographic director, cameramen, etc. Our team work has paid off. Both video clips were successful. The big lesson we learned from this exercise is teamwork. When we work as a team, we share ideas, share points of view, we can be good communicators.
Last but not least, we had a short session on fundraising. It was short but the professor, a Congolese doctor of economics and communication specialist, gave us a lot of information on how to write a project. To put into practice our ability to write a project, we wrote a project and presented it to the whole group and it corrected us. As a whole, this workshop has created a positive energy for all of us.
We learned how to use social media like WhatsApp, Facebook. Fr. Philippe Docq also taught us how to use G-suite, which is a wonderful program for creating a website, and blogs that can be used to post events that take place in our mission. We have learned a lot, but the challenge ahead is how to put into practice what we learned from this workshop. Personally, I believe, if we work closely with secretaries in the provinces where we work, we can use our communication and social media effectively.
I would like to mention a few words about Father Philippe Docq. One of the qualities of a good communicator is that he respects other human beings. We were ten participants for this workshop. We were not professionals. We were sort of “Jua-Kali’s” (these young people in East Africa, whose workshop is the side of the road, exposed to the sun, with often very approximate skills). But Father Philippe was patient and kind to us and he took care of us. He is so committed, always ready to share with us, his young colleagues, new ways of communicating. Father Philip, may God bless your work and give you the strength to continue your mission.
Johnson Singarajan, M.Afr.
Shortened and adapted by the Webmaster
Crédits photos : Vitus Abobo, M.Afr.