Bishops make an easy thing difficult (again)
According to a post on Covenant, the ECUSA House of Bishops has brought in an outside consultant to advise them on media relations. They need the help. Sadly, the real work of our church (and the experience of most Episcopalians, I think) is too often obscured by sensationalist coverage of perceived threats of schism.
So our bishops would like to get another story out there. Doug LeBlanc has summed up everything the bishops need to know about media relations in two paragraphs (with no consulting fees!).
Building good media relations is a fairly simple matter, really. It mostly involves answering honest questions honestly, being yourself, and speaking from the heart. Of necessity, though, it first means being accessible. No level of public-relations smoothness or narrative storytelling can compensate for closed doors. This is a painfully basic truth, dear bishops: Reporters cannot tell your story when we cannot observe you at work, as a body, and speak with you as your work progresses.
What began as a meeting designed to rebuild trust in the House of Bishops has become a lumbering hybrid meeting in which bishops move, without irony, from hearing discussions of reconciliation to discussing whether to depose a brother bishop who has already left the Episcopal Church. If bishops wish to devote their regular spring meeting to strengthening trust among themselves, more power to them. If they wish, however, to also do business, to make the difficult decisions that only they can make, as bishops, they ought to behave like unashamed Christians who have nothing to hide.
That’s about it. So here’s a (no cost!) way to begin, bishops. Allow reporters behind the closed doors. Allow photographers to do their thing. At the most recent General Convention, I could take photographs in the House of Deputies, but not the House of Bishops. Why?
LeBlanc is right. It’s easy to “handle” the media. Tell the truth, sincerely, and borne out of conviction. Too often, not just in the church, our impulse is to try to control a story, either by delaying or by limiting content. That won’t work. So, bishops, speak the truth in love. It will be good for the church. It will be good for you. And it will help your image.