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South America’s public relations training gets ultra-local

Division-wide advisory broadcast reaches congregations – highlights integration, young professionals

South America’s public relations training gets ultra-local

Edson Rosa, Communication director for the South America Division, speaks about social media outreach last month during the division-wide Communication advisory, broadcast from Novo Tempo media center near São Paulo, Brazil. [photos by Ansel Oliver]

Corporate communication training usually pulls together directors from the upper echelons of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Last month, a broadcasted advisory for the Communication department here in South America got down to the grassroots.

The continent-wide program – including a weekend Communication training seminar and a several-day Web forum – still included directors at unions and conferences, but for the first time reached thousands of Communication secretaries at local Adventist congregations.

Church leaders here estimate that tens of thousands of television and online viewers watched the series, which was broadcast from the church’s Novo Tempo media center here in Jacarei. The series highlighted the division’s goals of Web integration and social media outreach. It also included specialists offering tips on public relations, photography and video, Web platforms, and marketing, as well as an overview of the church’s operations and mission challenges worldwide.

Adventist Communication leaders are now examining whether this new method of holding a division-wide advisory can be replicated elsewhere. Up next for consideration is the denomination’s Euro-Africa Division, based in Berne, Switzerland.

"We’re hoping to have Communication advisories with everybody connected live, or by satellite, Skype, video conference or any other way,” said world church Communication Director Williams Costa Jr. “We need to break the walls that still separate us."

Church leaders say there are few regions of the world church that hold communication advisories, let alone on such a mass scale. The media series again underscores this division’s continuing commitment to corporate communication. For many years, administrators here in South America have expected cutting edge outreach techniques from their spokespeople and have provided the staff and resources to help them do it.

The division is one of few that hires experienced journalists for many of its Communication department positions. They regularly land mentions of the church in local and national news agencies. The Novo Tempo media center itself is a testament to how serious church officials are about using media and young professionals to push the church’s mission.

The center – located on a rural hillside campus about an hour’s drive northeast of the mammoth metro area of São Paulo – has four stories of production offices and several multi-set studios. It employs more than 330 people, including producers, graphic artists and production assistants. More than 20 of the media center’s employees are journalists.

Most writers and producers have several years of experience in the news media, production studios or design agencies, while some are hired fresh out of college.

The average age of media center employees is about 27, a spokesman said.

TV programming is broadcast on Novo Tempo TV in Brazil and Nuevo Tiempo TV in Spanish-speaking countries.

The media center and Web platform designers are closely integrated with the Communication department at the division’s headquarters in Brasilia – Brazil’s federal capital. Church officials say this integration more effectively gets their message out to the public, helping to gain new church members and connect membership across the continent.

“The work with Communication officers and advisors is increasingly aligned with church programs and focused in the same direction,” said Edson Rosa, Communication director for the South American Division. "Our aim is to increasingly grow the technical and professional expertise in our area.”

Other church departments here in the division also integrate much of their operations with other institutions. In Brazil, the Education department sets the curriculum for Adventist schools throughout the country, and the Brazil Publishing House builds and hosts websites for local schools. That structure alleviates some demands of local school administrators and also offers parents more options and transparency. For example, parents can access their children’s classes and current grades on mobile devices.

Costa, the world church Communication director, is originally from Brazil and previously served as Communication director of the South American Division. Since his appointment two years ago, he has expressed his goal of bringing more integration to the world church. In September, a world communication summit at the denomination’s headquarters, near Washington, D.C., will explore ways the denomination can better integrate its communication and media operations.