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Communications specialist Joanne Davies called for church officials to approach public relations efforts more strategically worldwide. She issued specific challenges for the church, including a global communication audit, that were accepted by the media summit. [photos: Ansel Oliver]
October 02, 2012 | Silver Spring, Maryland, United States | Ansel Oliver/ANN
A group of Seventh-day Adventist media professionals recommended a greater focus on strategic planning for more effectively conducting mission, first with a worldwide communication audit and later forming a committee to organize global initiatives.
Church leaders say the goals will lay a foundation for greater collaboration across the denomination worldwide. Currently, most of the Adventist Church’s communication outreach is conducted separately by its 13 world divisions.
The proposals came out of a five-day global media summit, a gathering of 80 Adventist media professionals, both church employees and lay members, who explored how the church can work in a more integrated way.
Lay member Joanne Davies, a communications specialist, challenged church officials to strengthen the church’s public identity by working together.
“The Seventh-day Adventist brand has been dwarfed, and no one oversees the strategic resource allocation,” Davies said. “Let’s put media muscle behind our message.”
The summit, held here at the church’s headquarters, was an initiative of Adventist world church President Ted N. C. Wilson, who said the meeting underscored unity among professional communicators.
“One of the most striking results was the highly spiritual commitment on the part of these world class communicators and media specialists to actually see that the Adventist message gets to every person in the world,” Wilson said. “I think that is a tremendous move forward and shows real unity and mission of the church.”
Proposals will go through a committee of vice presidents next week, with a report offered to the world church Executive Committee later this month. Wilson said the meeting was a focused group of 80 people, but more time is needed to obtain strong support from administrators internationally.
“There were others who didn’t have the opportunity to attend the meeting, and we have to inspire them with the practical results,” Wilson said.
Participants also recommended the church more effectively articulate and promote the Adventist brand. Doing so would strengthen the denomination’s identity, said Garrett Caldwell, public relations director and an associate director in Adventist world church’s Communication department.
Collaboration, Caldwell said, could also involve creating a structure to communicate a single, unmediated message throughout the organization, including to individual church members. That approach could help strengthen worldwide initiatives and enhance communication during crisis situations, Caldwell said.
Already, there are communication and branding highpoints. The Adventist Church has more buildings branded with the denomination’s logo than McDonald’s and Subway restaurants combined, said Claude Richli, associate publisher of Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines. And Adventist World Radio podcasts are downloaded about 20 million times each month, said Daryl Gungadoo, an AWR engineer based in England.
Still, participants agreed that the church’s public relations outreach needs to be stronger.
“We [the church] are basically unknown,” said Greg Dunn, managing director of Allison+Partners, a public relations agency.
Some world divisions have made great strides in working together. The South America Division, based in Brasilia, Brazil, collaborates across its departments. The South Pacific Division, based in Waroonga, New South Wales, Australia, has consolidated its media work under one organization. The division’s Adventist Media Network (AMN) includes the Communication department, individual evangelistic media ministries, music ministries, publishing work and Bible schools.
Neale Schofield, CEO of AMN, says the church in that division has seen greater results in spreading the gospel, but it took four years to combine all the ministries. Last week he said he hopes to see unity in media outreach efforts.
“My view of this summit is to have the whole be greater than the sum of its parts for the purpose of efficient spreading of the gospel worldwide,” Schofield said.
—additional reporting by Tor Tjeransen of tedNEWS