THE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND A CO-ORDINATED COMMUNICATION STRATEGY

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2 THE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND A CO-ORDINATED COMMUNICATION STRATEGY Contents Context Communicating Beyond the Church of Scotland Communication Within the Church of Scotland Implementation Guidelines for Spokespersons Context The Church of Scotland is part of the universal Church and collectively and individually, our primary mission is to proclaim and live the Gospel. Effective communication is central to our mission and has a direct bearing upon its success. We all communicate and we are all responsible for the quality of our communication. Our message is exciting. Our communication must reflect our enthusiasm for the gospel and its clarity, consistency and love. Good communication has to be timely and relevant, demonstrating transparency and honesty. Active listening and a willingness to enter into dialogue with others is an important part of effective communication and should help us build relationships and engender a sense of community and belonging. It is important that we speak effectively and clearly in the wider world, committing ourselves to more effective communication with our ecumenical partners and with our partner churches overseas. It is also important to establish and maintain transparent channels of communication within the church at local, regional and national level and to improve internal communication amongst central departments. Use of appropriate methods and styles of communication for specifically targeted groups is clearly the most effective way to broadcast our message. Our target audience is diverse. Our communication tools have to be creative, responsive and relevant. Sending our message in a way that is accessible, acceptable and easily understood by all recipients is essential. 1

3 There is also the issue of legal public accountability. The Church of Scotland is the largest charity in Scotland and every congregation is a charity in its own right. Compliance with the Office of the Scottish Charity Register requires: Commitment to openness and accountability at all levels Clarity of information except that established as private Ready compliance with requests for information Openness about governance and strategy Clear means of holding office-bearers responsible Information to be available on an equal footing to all interested parties Wherever we are within the Church of Scotland, we need a co-ordinated communication strategy that will guide us in achieving our shared goal of proclaiming the Gospel. The following pages of this document identify strategic aims for improving communication both within and beyond the Church and explain some detail of the thinking supporting each aim. Key targets to be achieved within the coming year to support the implementation of this strategy are then identified. In addition, there is a stand alone section, specifically instructed by the General Assembly, containing guidelines for those who speak for the church. A successful communication strategy constantly changes. Consigning it to paper is just the beginning. It is intended to be a living, working document, constantly to hand, constantly used. If it is read once and thereafter consigned to a drawer, it will die. If it is constantly used and refined, it will flourish and grow. Regular, informed evaluation and validation by users in all parts of the church are essential. Ongoing analysis of feedback will result in additions and subtractions when necessary. Examples of good practice - innovative ideas, creative adaptation, flexibility and joint initiatives - will be collated to form part of a web based companion handbook that will evolve as the strategy becomes widely used. All employees of the Church of Scotland are expected, and all members of the Church are encouraged, to communicate in ways that are fully consistent with these guidelines. Effective communication is a journey, not a destination. Let us share that journey together. 2

4 COMMUNICATING BEYOND THE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND Strategic Aim To see beyond ourselves, to be more accessible to those who are not engaged with the Church, to encourage the enquirer and to communicate in ways which are direct and inclusive. Before we can succeed in taking the Gospel beyond our own established networks, we must be able to understand the perspectives of those who are presently not engaged with the Church. Although challenging, this is possible. For example, using targeted focus groups, involving those who have little knowledge of church and bible, or who have had some involvement that has left them unfulfilled and unconvinced, we can listen to their perceptions of the Church - its image, message and communication methods. By listening actively to what they say, we can begin to develop non-threatening ways of welcoming them. At the same time we can tailor communications to specific audiences, including people of other faith traditions, without compromising the Church s essential message. Effective links with national, local and international media currently exist. A good relationship with the media is something that we must learn to view as a valuable tool within our communication strategy. We must also accept that the Church has to produce stories that are newsworthy. We cannot expect to achieve positive coverage as a matter of course. An awareness of new opportunities in relation to the broadcast media and recognition of the crucial importance of emerging technologies will also serve us well. It is also essential that we nurture able communicators, who can contribute a Christian perspective to topical debates and offer prophetic insights on major ethical issues. We must make good use of such talents. In this way we can facilitate effective engagement with the whole community, including key policy makers at every level of society. Maximising the communication value of St Andrew Press and Life and Work, together with other aspects of the Church s publishing programme, particularly in researching and sharing stories that reflect well on the values of the Gospel, will aid us in ensuring that our message is circulated to as wide an audience as possible. 3

5 Strategic Aim To celebrate our life as part of the whole Church of Jesus Christ, within these islands and throughout the world and to be mindful of the impact of what we say and do on other churches. Effective communication with our sister churches in the United Kingdom and partner churches around the world is of paramount importance to the success of our mission. This enables us to share perspectives and develop our understanding of what it means to be members of the one, worldwide body of Christ. Using imaginative ways of working with ecumenical partners we can witness to the wider community on the basis of not doing separately what can be done together. Communicating well with other churches at home and overseas may require some work on our part. For example, it can involve a commitment to understanding differences of language or culture and, in some cases, a recognition that infrastructures we readily take for granted just do not exist. We also need to be sensitive to context, seeking the most appropriate methods of communication for those with whom we wish to engage. This will involve respect for the organisational systems of other churches and an appreciation of the significance of being present at key meetings of national and international ecumenical bodies. Face to face encounters can be extremely valuable and are encouraged in appropriate situations. 4

6 COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND Strategic Aim To achieve and maintain effective communication within the Church of Scotland and to encourage understanding and respect. Local National Informing Listening Belonging Involving Engaging Owning Regional The triquetra pictured above is representative of the equal importance of the different expressions of the Church - local, regional and national, as identified below. It also symbolises the aim of a free flow communication amongst all the parts leading to an increased sense of belonging one to another. Local: Congregations (both within the United Kingdom and overseas), parish ministers, elders, individual members, adherents, chaplains, readers, deacons, parish assistants and project workers. Regional: Presbyteries (both as courts and as represented by their constituent office bearers, members and employees) within the United Kingdom and overseas. National: The General Assembly and its councils, committees and agencies, central departments and staff employed in various church offices. Five stages leading to effective communication have been identified: Awareness: At all levels there is a general awareness of other parts of the Church, 5

7 though this may not be accompanied by an understanding of what the other parts do and how they relate. Such awareness is not always sympathetic; indeed it can be dismissive of other component parts. Understanding: Part of the strategic aim is to encourage a greater level of understanding so that individuals have a sense of how what they do forms part of the bigger picture. This will lead to a more appreciative view of the Church as a whole and as a sum of its parts. Acceptance: Communications need to be received as well as transmitted. It is only natural that those on the receiving end will prioritise the material sent. There is, therefore, a need for those who send out material to reflect on the quality and the quantity of that material. At the same time the attitude which instinctively resists and rejects proffered information also needs to be challenged. Engagement: Once such issues relating to the sending and receiving of information are resolved people will be equipped to engage more fully and in more informed ways with the work of the Church. For example, those appointed to Assembly committees will be enabled to contribute to discussion rather than sitting back and leaving it to the experts. Advocacy: The final stage in this analysis is one where individuals, be they office staff or church members, are confident about speaking out on behalf of the Church, in terms both of its faith and the work it does in communities and the wider world. People in all parts of the Church should have the opportunity to participate in the development of policy. In particular, councils and committees must be encouraged to be proactive in consulting with presbyteries and, where appropriate, local congregations. Likewise, presbyteries should communicate effectively with congregations and central departments. Staff working in the offices of the national church are based in various locations, although the majority are in Edinburgh. Location plays a role in good communication, though scattered locations cannot be used as an excuse for failing to communicate, particularly in a time of fast developing technology. Departmental managers should meet regularly with staff. Mechanisms which enable good 6

8 communication between 121, Charis House and regional offices should be established and maintained. Inter-departmental communication within 121 must also be a high priority. The quality and relevance of communication within the Church needs to be constantly assessed, with feedback sought from and provided by recipients. Those on the receiving end, locally and regionally, must also engage in the process and ensure that their views are heard. Silence and apathy have no place in a communication strategy and nobody should feel that their views are not worth articulating. As a Church we require a planned and quality approach to our communications. The What, Why, How and Who are all important. Councils and committees will be required to develop and maintain communication plans that will be subject to regular review. It is essential that the Church make best possible use of emerging technologies in its communications. Presbyteries are linked electronically with each other and with the central administration. A similar provision should be in place for congregations and will be a priority for further IT development. IMPLEMENTATION Key targets to be achieved within the next year to support the implementation of this strategy are identified as follows. The Council of Assembly Communication Committee is currently responsible for ensuring that these targets are achieved: Encourage Congregations and Presbyteries to engage with issues highlighted in this document by: a providing every Congregation and Presbytery with a copy of the document and suggested ways of engaging with it b briefing congregational resourcing staff to lead discussion c recommending that Presbyteries appoint Communication Advisors d establishing a web based communications resource to provide guidance 7

9 exemplars of good practice Require Councils and central departments to develop, establish and maintain communication plans including: a methods of conferring and consulting with Congregations, Presbyteries, Ecumenical Partners and the World Church b methods of induction, ongoing briefing and involvement of staff in the setting of departmental aims and objectives c the provision of an appropriate budget for communication Review communication materials and methods with reference to diversity and special needs, for example accessibility, language and style. Prioritise areas of investment. Establish policy and a mechanism to ensure that exhibition opportunities are properly assessed. Ensure the effective use and application of technology in supporting communication, including: a establishing on-line contact with every congregation b investigating electronic conferencing facilities c ensuring regular updating by departments of their website pages d developing use of the intranet and extranet Develop criteria to measure the effectiveness of the strategy GUIDELINES FOR SPOKESPERSONS Strategic Aim Raise the Church of Scotland s media profile by being aware of the media s needs and interests in relation to the Church and provide journalists at local, national and international level with sensibly targeted news stories. React quickly and professionally to media enquiries and produce simple and accurate responses. 1 It is part of the responsibility of a convener to speak and make media comment in relation to the work of his or her department and conveners must be prepared to undertake this task on a proactive and reactive basis. 2 In the absence of the convener, a vice-convener or other designated person must be available. 8

10 3 Up-to-date contact details of spokespersons must always be available to the Media Relations Unit. 4 The Media Relations Unit will provide opportunities for the media training of spokespersons and departments are expected to take up these opportunities. 5 Those who speak for the Church should make clear whether they are (a) stating a position adopted by the General Assembly, (b) stating a position adopted by the relevant Council or Committee or (c) outlining a policy proposal which is under consideration but has not yet been adopted. 6 It will be a matter of judgement as to whether a particular issue calls for comment by the Moderator rather than a convener. Such a judgement will normally be based on discussions involving the Moderator, the Convener(s), the Principal Clerk and the Head of the Media Relations Unit. 7 While the Moderator is one of those who speaks for the Church it is recognised that the Moderator has a wider, prophetic role which may include articulating a word of challenge to the Church itself. 8 Where an issue arises on which neither the General Assembly nor a Council or Committee has expressed a view, the Moderator is free to express an opinion, though must make clear that he or she is speaking personally as a church leader and not on the basis of a decision of a church body. 9 In times of crisis or celebration it is expected that the Moderator will make appropriate public comment on behalf of the Church. 10 In addition to seeking comment from officials the media may approach other individuals within the Church whom they regard as having relevant knowledge and experience on the matter under consideration. In such cases it is helpful if those approached liaise with the Media Relations Unit. 11 Presbyteries, ministers and congregations are encouraged to use the media to publicise a particular church story and may seek the assistance of the Media Relations Unit. The Unit is also available to advise in relation to local media enquiries. 9

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