Brand Management vs. Member Missionaries

Kyle M is a Senior Editor at PC Magazine and bassist for the band Mere, returns for another guest post here at BCC (previous posts here and here).

I participated in an interesting focus-group discussion this evening that I would like to continue with all you brilliant BCC readers. A young man from some Church research department was flown to New York City to talk to members here about how the Church is perceived in the local community, and how the Church can better get its message out.

Being that I’m a professional Web junkie, I blathered on and on about social media techniques: Twitter, Facebook’s micro-targeted advertising platform, blogs, and stuff like that.

The Man from Salt Lake (as I’ll call him) was more interested in discussing member PR efforts; whether we think members should be engaged in public relations, how they should be managed/encouraged, and whether PR is any different than regular ol’ missionary work.

For my part, I say it’s the same thing. Telling someone about the Gospel is telling someone about the Gospel, whether we do it on Twitter, at the office water cooler, in a shared FHE, via press release to the media, or in a discussion with the missionaries. To me, it’s all a form of public relations/marketing, whether grass-roots or otherwise.

Of course, some of these methods will have higher “conversion rates” than others (in the crass, marketing sense). It’s easy to tweet that I am preparing a lesson for church, which probably builds up the brand identity of the church among my Twitter followers. It’d be a different story if I were to mass-invite them all to attend their local sacrament service. Perhaps the water cooler is better for that.

Anyway, I want to get your take on a few questions that arose from the discussion:

Is member missionary work different from “grass-roots” or “viral” PR? (or does the distinction even matter?) Do any of you have positive experiences of working with your local public affairs representatives? Or coordinating their efforts with the missionaries’? When you see a church ad on Facebook or Google Ads, what’s your mental/emotional response? Is discussing brand perception and mindshare too “Global Religious Organization” and not enough “Kingdom of God on Earth”?

I’d love to read your responses to any or all of those Qs. Refer to Elder Ballard’s blogging talk as often as you wish. And who knows? Maybe The Man from Salt Lake will be reading this.

Brand Management vs. Member Missionaries

Comments

  1. Weird, the Church just completed the worst possible PR debacle with Prop. 8. Now expect the members to catch it up?

  2. I am sorry. The Church does have a global PR problem. Does anyone in the Ukraine or Panama think about Prop. 8? Just my hot button.

  3. A couple weeks ago I ran across church ads every time I went to Time.com or checked the tv schedule at tvguide.com. I found them, somehow, more annoying than regular ads.

  4. Matt W. says:

    I like when I see Church ads. The Challenge the church has is with all it’s participants virally out there doing grass roots work, it doesn’t have a lot of control over it’s brand ID. Also, when I blog, I don’t really think of it as missionary work. Maybe the fault is mine in that regard. The public affairs people came to San Antonio and filmed a “reality tv” style series on the missionaries here for use in the MTC. It was good. It was supposed to have wider distribution. Not sure what happened.

  5. @BobW, should Prop8 have been a more focused/contained push in California? Like with more info coming from locals and less from SLC?

    In any case, I think the “disaster” stemmed more from the church’s position than from any PR mishandling. In which case it’s not a PR debacle, just a debacle (assuming you think it had a net-negative effect on the church’s image–I’m not so sure).

  6. One time, while looking up how to finish a quest for World of Warcraft, I saw a Book of Mormon ad on the top of the website.

    My wife and I got a chuckle out of it, but that’s about it. I often wonder what the other (non-member) World of Warcraft players think about it.

  7. Does member missionary work different from “grass-roots” or “viral” PR? (or does the distinction even matter?)
    I think the distinction matters very much. If someone has a blog, or a twitter account and blogs/tweets about church things and people know they are official PA people, it will be taken as an ad. If if is just a rank and file member without PR backing, then it could be received better. I know PA people here are asked to be very careful when using multi-media tech (in any quasi-official way) because they are PA people. Besides, IMO, it would be very strange to have a bunch of PA people with official blogs.
    Do any of you have positive experiences of working with your local public affairs representatives?
    I’ve been involved for the last couple of years helping Bay Area PA navigate multi-media. My interaction with PA representatives has been largely positive. They do good work. They want to do more. Sometimes they seem a little defensive instead of proactive about the church. (Oh the stories I could tell.) But those are the exceptions.
    When you see a church ad on Facebook or Google Ads, what’s your mental/emotional response? Is discussing brand perception and mindshare too “Global Religious Organization” and not enough “Kingdom of God on Earth”?
    I think most the people who use the ads on their own Facebook pages are BYU students, who interact with BYU students. I like the ads, but I’m a syrupy kind of gal. When I think about sharing them with some of my friends via technology, I think they wouldn’t be able to relate to them. I personally feel like the ads are geared a little too much towards Mormons already. They don’t really reach out to non-Mormons. I think we need to do better, use more non-LDS focus groups to screen the ads or something.

  8. Kyle M.,
    As a Californian it annoys me greatly when I see people that have absolutely not connection with CA with I support Prop 8 banners on their blogs and pages.

  9. I’m trying to imagine what ads Brigham Young or John Taylor might have approved. Having trouble with that.

    I don’t think any better of Scientology or Focus on the Family when I see their ads, no matter how sweet they may be. I just don’t trust them and have a hard time thinking they have any effect. The ones who tell us they do have an effect are the very ones who have an interest in selling them, so again, I don’t trust that.

    The proliferation of Mormon blogs that have nothing more to offer than “Hey, guys, I’m a Mormon, so if you have any questions, let me answer them,” or who post all the same church videos as every other such blog, aren’t impressive, either. If this is a sample of member-produced PR, it’s ineffective at best, and potentially counterproductive because there’s nothing solid behind any of it.

    Member missionary work, where it’s actually done, *does* have something solid behind it — the personal touch, the neighborly deed, the friendship and sincerity that is hard to mass-market.

    Meanwhile, back to those 19th century ads. “Deseret: Minding Our Own Business Since 1847 — You Mind Yours, Too” — ??

  10. Stake Public Affairs primary focus often is (and should be) community service. I think that if members want to help the Church with PR and be member missionaries, they should focus on projects (virtual and meatspace) that provide service (and/or information [preferably not solely focused on LDS issues]) to a community. And that means conversation and hard work and commitment to building community that may not lead directly to baptisms.

    And if the Church wants to encourage and offer training related to such efforts, that’d be fine (esp. if it can be made local to the area).

  11. BobW, the church got a majority of Californians to agree with us on Prop 8. Isn’t that a PR win? Not just a majority of Californian generally, but a majority of Catholics, Protestants, union members, Hispanics, and, of course, a huge majority of Blacks. (Sadly, we couldn’t win a majority of Whites over to our side. When is our church going to figure out how to connect with White people?)

  12. Or to put it another way: even concepts such as branding and viral marketing are losing their currency these days among top PR thinkers. It’s all about conversation, providing value, becoming authentically invested and truly listening (and letting the feedback you receive actually, really change what your organization does) — what Brian Solis calls “putting the public back in public relations.”

  13. Kyle,
    I have to say, the target ads on Salon (or Slate–I can never remember which one I see an article one) bug me, mostly because I’M A MEMBER! Yes, my cookies show I come to Mormon blogs, but I don’t need to see an ad telling me how to find out more about the Church; it strikes me as wasted money. Plus, if it wasn’t for those church ads, I could be learning the one rule of weightloss—obey!

  14. We are advertising on Salon? It must be part of the outreach to white people that I’ve suggested. Salon is the perfect place to make inroads into that community.

  15. I don’t get it: The church is on the winning side of a political issue, and that’s bad PR for the church. The problem is that there’s this shrill minority who are too close minded to understand that others disagree with them to understand that there’s is a minority position.

    Look, I’m not saying that minority = wrong, and my own feelings about the issue do not align with those of the church. But you’ve got to be high if you don’t think that the California vote hurt the LDS church among anyone but a small minority of Americans who didn’t like the church anyway, while making great strides among people who were otherwise quite antagonistic toward the church. Are people really flocking to UU churches in droves because they support marriage equality?

  16. I have captured a few screenshots of Slate banner ads. I don’t know about Salon. I think I’ve seen the same ads in a couple of other places. The ads feature a fake IM exchange on some big “why am I here?” issue and connect to the “ask the Mormons” site.

  17. Is discussing brand perception and mindshare too “Global Religious Organization” and not enough “Kingdom of God on Earth”?

    If we are discussing it academically, it seems fine. However, I’ve always felt a little creeped out when this MBA-style approach is used in the actual context of sharing the gospel. It seems almost antithetical to “without purse or script”. Relying on the arm of flesh, etc. etc.

    As for negative PR: Any activity or campaign that results in members developing an entrenched sense of Us vs. Them, or an increased public image that is associated with that kind of thinking, is indeed a net-negative. Sure, it strengthens the commitment of the most loyal, but it also alienates many in and out of the church, and it any potential pool of converts it seeds is going to be heavily contaminated with fundamentalist thinkers. If you want to go more fundamentalist, then I suppose it would be a net-positive after all.

  18. Wm Morris,
    Those are the ones I’ve seen; I just honestly can’t differentiate Slate from Salon in my mind, so I don’t know which site I’ve seen them on (or both).

  19. Molly Bennion says:

    Ditto all the comments on community service and neighborly deeds.

    Our ward serves a major children’s hospital. Our alert RS president learned they had no budget this year for their annual memorial service for all the children who have passed away this year. She gathered up fine tablecloths, silver service, homemade fancy cookies and homemade grape juice punch for a really class reception for the families. She enlisted the aid of inactive members as well as the active. The praise is still rolling in. 10 years ago we had no cooperation and a little hostility from the chaplain’s office. Now they are our friends. We’ll do better proving we subscribe to Christian values than declaring we are Christian.

  20. I agree about the ads…I see them on Facebook and on my company’s site, and while I’m glad we’re spending money on Google and Facebook ads, they could be targeted differently, and personlized on a local level.

    For instance, the NYC stake could make Facebook ads that are only seen by Facebookers in NY. “Come check out our building in Lincoln Square on Sunday at 11am” or whatever. Or “You have 29 Facebook friends who are Mormon. Learn more!” I wonder how that’d do…

  21. I saw the ad on Facebook–“Which hot Mormons are searching for you? Find out here.” With a picture of Eliza Snow.

  22. I for one am surprised by ads in Salon. Whats next? The Rachel Maddow show? The Nation?

  23. #5 – “In any case, I think the “disaster” stemmed more from the church’s position than from any PR mishandling. In which case it’s not a PR debacle, just a debacle (assuming you think it had a net-negative effect on the church’s image–I’m not so sure).”

    I don’t about the net effect, though I know it certainly had a negative effect among my non-member acquaintances.

    The problem was not the church’s position on the issue. The problem was its extensive involvement in the political process. I don’t think anyone would care what its position is as long as it minds its own business and doesn’t try to impose its doctrine on people who don’t share its beliefs.

  24. #15 – “while making great strides among people who were otherwise quite antagonistic toward the church.”

    Do you mean evangelical Christians? Do you really think their gratitude for Mormon money means they’re not going to turn around and bash the church next week at one of their “Save your Mormon friends from hell” nights?

  25. My emotional response to seeing religious ads on Facebook, et. al., is generally a sense of desperation. Desperation on the part of the church. Social networking sites are hardly the place for such things…almost like finding an advert for a Lexus sedan above the alter. Cheapens the message.

  26. Kevin Barney says:

    I have a PR calling in my stake. I don’t think PR and member missionary work are the same thing. The latter is about making converts; the former is about making friends. The Church needs converts, but it also needs friends.

  27. re: 15
    Yeah, I disgree with DKL on this one too. Living here in CA it’s hard to imagine that there was any positive PR impact for the Church as a result of Prop 8. In my neck of the woods Church is now widely perceived as obsessed with opposing gays, much the way Scientology is obsessed with opposing psychiatry. Sometimes when you win, you lose.

    GST, here’s where I’d like to see an LDS banner ad:

    http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/

  28. #27,

    Mike how many white evangelicals, blue collar union folks, practicing catholics, black evangelicals etc do you hang around with? That is the problem with anecdotal evidence

  29. #28,
    I live in SoCal, and while I don’t roll too much with MikeInWeHo (which is a darn shame! SoCal Bloggersnacker, anyone?)–I’m more in the “white evangelicals, blue collar union folks, practicing catholics, black evangelicals” crowd; but I still agree with Mike.

  30. I’ve long been frustrated that there wasn’t really anything out there among Church missionary materials that I thought would speak to the concerns and values of my friends. Materials that seem overproduced and slick, with seeming emphasis on the media over the message, tend to speak to them no more than any other commercial or ad with an expensive budget and nice photography. My friends aren’t very interested in the Greg Olsen Jesus.

    The only recent book about the Church I’ve dared share with friends was Coke Newell’s Latter Days — maybe because Coke Newell seems more like my friends than some airbrushed, focus-grouped family in a commercial. I guess my frustration is that it seems like Church media sometimes feels like it’s calibrated more to reach people who are most susceptible to advertising–any advertising–than to people with whom the message might resonate more deeply.

    Is there some way to make talking about the Church to a friend seem more like telling them about a powerful film or piece of literature, and less like trying to get them to join an MLM?

    Also: a lot of my Facebook friends who are LDS post YouTube videos produced by the Church. But it seems like the only ones who watch them are Mormon.

  31. Peter LLC says:

    28: That is the problem with anecdotal evidence

    When has that ever stopped you from sharing your ill-founded convictions? Aren’t you a big proponent of that brand of ice cream no one outside Texas has ever heard of, convinced based on your meager observations that it would take the nation by storm if marketed nationwide?

  32. No, it’s not the same thing.

    Or, rather, in answer to your first question, yes, it’s different.

    And the sooner someone with standing (obviously not me) can convey to the folks that matter that Public Affairs is the problem, not the solution, the better for all of us … former, current or prospective LDS alike.

    Otherwise, Public Affairs looks set to become the paid ministry that Mormonism never had; and regardless of the convert demographics that might suggest the wisdom of allowing that to happen, such a move will either be resisted by the membership (unlikely) or it will be allowed to wreak its havoc until it’s too late.

  33. Hey, Now you have gone beyond the pale

    No bashing Blue Bell ice cream.

  34. Bro. Jones says:

    Re: Internet ads that people are seeing. I suspect you’re seeing them because you have been browsing LDS-related websites like LDS.org, the Bloggernaccle, etc., and site operators are selling your browsing habit data to data aggregators, who in turn are selling them to advertisers, who in turn are selling ad space to the LDS Church (who is paying to advertise to people searching for “Mormon” topics).

    In other words, the you see the ads because your Internet browsing suggests you have an interest in Mormonism, and they don’t realize you’re already Mormon.

  35. @34: In other words, it’s a waste of money.

    For a bunch of folks (like me) who pride themselves on running their lives and their businesses according to the bottom line of what really matters, isn’t it odd that we never hear of anyone from Public Affairs getting the boot?

    My guess is that what the upper echelon PR flacks in Salt Lake are mostly good at is CYA. They’re certainly not retaining their positions based on outcomes.

  36. Actually, Jason, the PR folks in SLC have been doing some fantastic, leading edge stuff over the past 3 years. The online newsroom is one of the best I’ve ever seen as are some of the crisis communications responses.

    Also: #34 — that is one way web display ads are served. That doesn’t mean that that’s the exact buy the Church has made.

    That said, I’m not convinced of the efficacy of banner ads for an organization like the Church. The problem isn’t so much the form of the ad itself, but that there is a glut of display inventory and so you get the horrible lose weight ads on sites like the New York Times.

  37. Actually, Wm, I’m just riffin’ on the orginal post:

    “… whether we think members should be engaged in public relations, how they should be managed/encouraged, and whether PR is any different than regular ol’ missionary work.”

    How members should be managed? The nature of PR work?

    Not exactly “leading edge” questions. And certainly not ones that require putting a warm body on a plane to wherever.

    Or did nobody at Public Affairs think to question the economy of such a trip vs. Skyping their NY contacts?

  38. Kevin Barney: Well said. This is what I’ve been thinking about all day. I think PR is mainly to make the church acceptable to society, while missionary work is more about getting members of society to join the church. It’s interesting because in order to be a successfully selling brand you have to really distinguish yourself from the competition but in order to be acceptable you have to be a lot like the competition. They Church has a challenge in balancing these two things, ie- distinguishing themselves from other societies while being similar to other societies.

  39. I see PR and missionary work as separate, although sometimes complimentary, efforts. PR is a necessary part of any organization of substantial size because it has to deal with groups and systems that will sometimes conflict with it. Missionary work is personal and face to face. That’s why it’s hard, and probably why it can be so tempting to do missionary work through non-confrontational PR means. I think the Church’s Newsroom site is great at addressing issues and needs in the Public Relations world. PR can provide occasional referrals, but usually it’s a very different beast from missionary work.

    Re #19: I’m in this ward as well and working with the Children’s Hospital has really helped cement Mormons in the community. It’s a wonderful program.

  40. Jason, it was some research arm of the church that sent a representative, it was not public affairs.

    That said, who knows: maybe the point of the study is to follow up on the work of the PR department.

  41. “Not exactly “leading edge” questions.”

    Gauging members attitudes towards PR (esp. in relation to missionary work) is not the same thing as being unaware of the best practices in the field of PR*. In addition, there are reasons to do a focus group in person as opposed to just Skyping members.

    Which isn’t to defend the nature of the research. In general, I’m somewhat skeptical of focus group-oriented marketing research, especially when it comes to social media/viral projects. Just try stuff and see what works.

    * A field, btw, that needs to make major changes to the way it operates so it’s no surprise that the Church has is actively trying to figure out how members should engage in it.

  42. There’s no such thing as bad PR.

    I do, though, wish the Church IT department would spend less time on crap like Twitter feeds and more time actually working on core IT problems and systems. Getting the contact information on local unit websites to sync up with MLS is more important than Twitter.

  43. Aren’t you a big proponent of that brand of ice cream no one outside Texas has ever heard of, convinced based on your meager observations that it would take the nation by storm if marketed nationwide?

    Actually, we’re afraid that if they sold it elsewhere, there wouldn’t be enough for us. So we’re OK with it being #3 without much effort.

  44. Stephanie says:

    Oh man. I already suck at missionary work, temple work, family history work. Just what I want to hear is that now I need to do PR work, too.

  45. I do, though, wish the Church IT department would spend less time on crap like Twitter feeds and more time actually working on core IT problems and systems. Getting the contact information on local unit websites to sync up with MLS is more important than Twitter.

    So are library catalogs.

  46. LOLZ: I went to Youtube today to watch Glenn Beck plant his foot firmly in his mouth by calling President Obama a racist, and there on the sidebar was a link to the LDS Church’s official You Tube channel. Nice one, Glenn.

  47. 8. mmiles,
    .
    As a Californian it pleases me greatly when I see people that have absolutely no connection with CA with “I support Prop 8 banners” on their blogs and pages.
    .
    I’m glad to know we have support out there and because they support us, I’m more likely to share my “means” with their campaigns to protect marriage outside of California. One world, one effort and all that to defend marriage any/everywhere.
    .
    Their support also is important because Prop 8’s opponents received a higher % of their funding from out of state than we received to support it, which when combined with their higher $ total resulted in about a 2-to-1 out-of-state funding ratio against Prop 8. We need those out-of-state banners supporting Prop-8 counter our opponents who have “absolutely no connection to CA.”

  48. Matt W. says:

    Queuno and Ardis: Silly, nothing is more important than Twitter.

  49. I worked in Public Affairs on the stake level for 10+ years with a high councilman who is now my bishop. Since he has become bishop, he has been trying to develop a way to teach members the difference between missionary work (planting the seed, giving copies of the Book of Mormon away, bearing testimony, etc.) and what is really public affairs (clearing the trees and plowing the ground). He wants our ward members to learn to be friends with neighbors and members of the community without them feeling there is an ulterior motive. He’s encouraging them to not use Mormon speak, and not always turn to a ward member to borrow eggs, but use other neighbors as well. There is actually a pilot project in our area that is proving very successful in increasing baptisms, where members are taught a few basic guidelines and stakes are having a designated weekend a month where church activities are cancelled to allow members to invite the neighbors over for a barbecue or whatever.

  50. So are library catalogs.

    Agreed. I only wanted to offer just one example so that it didn’t seem that I was piling on.

  51. stakes are having a designated weekend a month where church activities are cancelled to allow members to invite the neighbors over for a barbecue or whatever.

    Like, canceling the three-hour block? That’s pretty revolutionary.

  52. Thanks Toni, that’s interesting. Do “church activities” also include “church”? I could get behind the idea of a one-hour block on Fast Sundays in return for monthly Sunday BBQs with the neighbors. That’s a win-win!

  53. @40 & 41:

    I appreciate the replies. My sense is that we probably share similar levels of skepticism about all this, but that my own skepticism is likely less-informed than your own, so I’m gonna switch tack before I get called out.

    For what it’s worth, I agree that the LDS church has the right and obligation to pursue public relations as part of its mission. Cold comfort, I know, considering that I’ll probably show up to complain no matter how they try to pull it off.

    In any case, here’s what’s really bothering me today as I ponder this post: What’s up with the hate-fest going at KSL over this whole nationwide kiss-in action?

    http://www.ksl.com/index.php?nid=148&sid=7301980

    It seems to me, before even attempting to get into the ins-and-outs of successful PR, that the real discussion ought to be about how to bring rank-and-file members (and work-a-day KSL employees) up-to-speed on conducting themselves online in such a way so as to not embarrass (and ultimately hinder) the movement they’re so eager to defend.

    The problem, as far as I can tell, is that it’s a bifurcated movement, split largely along class lines, led by a blessed few unwilling to give up the obvious advantage of maintaining a permanent political underclass eager to respond to their beck and call.

    Whether they be folks from research or public affairs, the overeducated and overpaid egghead/PR types in the middle are inevitably tasked with navigating the best way forward between the Scylla and Charybdis of the LDS board of directors and its humble shareholders.

    And, in my opinion, you’re never gonna get useful data or advice from folks who’re paid to keep the board happy.

    Not until the shareholders take an active interest.

    And there’s no sign of that happening anytime soon.

    Best of luck.

  54. Anne (UK) says:

    I too served 10 years in stake Public Affairs (strange, that!) the last 5 of those being as stake media relations rep . The way we approached PA is that it is the forerunner, the John the Baptist role to missionary work. It is about building bridges. For us that took 2 approaches: 1- we encouraged every unit to get involved in community service, by finding and supporting a charity local to that unit and offering whatever help they needed over the course of a year (charity fundraising fete in the summer, maintenance work where necessary, carol singing and entertainment at Christmas, whatever), and 2- by making sure each local newspaper for each unit published meeting times, reports of activities etc. When we started to help one group, it was amazing to see others come forth to ask for help, and pretty soon we got invited to charity councils, and so on.

    Paid adverts make my stomach turn, to be honest. The best way to reach others is by service- and we found in those areas which did run a PA programme, missionaries were met at doors by people saying ‘oh you are the church who helped Cancer Care (or whatever charity)’ or ‘yes, I know where you meet, I’ve read about you in the local paper’, rather than the usual doorstep banter. Having information in local papers made it easier for members to be involved in discussions with neighbours too. Win/win
    .

  55. My 2 cents for what it’s worth:

    The Church’s problem isn’t programs, advertising, PR callings, or anything else like that. It is more fundamental.

    Our gospel is beautiful at its core. There is an amazing message about Christ, about priesthood, about families and eternity, etc. However, when the average non-LDS person is asked about our church, I daresay the images that come to mind are anti-gay, polygamy, something about Coke, golden bible, etc. When you think of most other Christian religions (ie. evangelicals, Baptists, etc.), their message, you think of Christ. When you think of Buddhists, you think of peace and service. When you think of Bahai, you think inclusion. Unfortunately, we set up an us vs them message, and the church’s actions don’t help – Prop 8, talks on tattoos and earrings, peculiar people, etc.

    Over the years, a lot of baggage has risen that doesn’t have to do with the core of the gospel, but has to do with the Church (which is NOT the same thing). Examples:
    – Earrings and tattoos: when over 40% of US population between 18-35 has a tattoo, why equate it with apostasy
    – Beards, white shirts, and other silly things: Christ had a beard, early church leaders had beards, it’s obviously not a gospel thing
    – Suppression of past: when a simple internet search turns up things that the church trying to suppress (non-inspiring though true as it might be), it doesn’t help

    The list could go on, but I’m sure everyone knows what I’m getting at.

    More than any program or PR routine they could come up with, this is what I think would help more than anything else. Imagine an apostle speaking in conference with a blue shirt and a goatee (aka GA Smith). Imagine a talk about Christ and loving each other. Imagine a talk saying to come as you are. If you drink a glass of wine now and then (again, much like the early leaders of the church, or even Christ), we don’t care, we still want you a part and welcome you in full fellowship. If you are gay, we’re not going to spend millions fighting you. We still believe marriage is between a man +/- one woman, but we will still welcome you as we can into our midst. If 3 hours of church is a lot for you or your family, fine, come to sacrament meeting and go home and have a BBQ with your neighbors. We’ve shortened garments 2 feet over the years from the wrists to the shoulders, we’re now making a camisole top for women that still has the appropriate markings, but is, like ankle length garments, merely a reflection of the times in which we live. We want you as you are. We’ll just offer you a bit more.

    Deemphasize all of the craziness. Reemphasize the gospel. I think this is also related to the retention problem. The Church teaches the gospel in the missionary lessons and in the ads on TV, but devolves into “non-gospel” things when it people get into it.

    Again, just my 2 cents.

  56. How does the Church manage it’s brand so that every public service action, at any level, isn’t viewed by non-LDS as just simply a means to draw attention and converts to the Church?

    Being seen as a “missionary church” that actively proselytes causes the Church to be seen through a fairly skeptical prism by non-members.

    And I find it somehow distasteful to equate community service with PR work. I’d like to see local units of the church perform service without needing to get a write-up in the local paper every time it’s done.

  57. Whenever I travel to do a presentation for the Church or a community organization which the Church is involved in, it’s the PR folks who plan and execute every detail–and they’ve astounded me many times. My last big trip was to Detroit and included presentations at an African American museum, at an incredible AA charter school, and in a non-LDS church. All organized by the PR folks. And that trip wasn’t even unusual in the PR efforts I’ve seen in the past decade.

    Jason Echols, I have to counter your opinion (“you’re never gonna get useful data or advice from folks who’re paid to keep the board happy”) with my experience. I have seen PR members give very bad news, and then repeat it to be sure it wasn’t dismissed. Effective action is another thing entirely, of course. But you and I are focused in two different directions. I haven’t heard any PR people talk about the fallout from Prop 8. I wouldn’t have been invited to those meetings. I have heard things relevant to the issues I’m involved in, and have been impressed by the honesty and even the urgency of all participants.

    I don’t know what the Church is doing PR-wise where you are, but I’ve seen incredible things in Chicago, Oakland, Detroit, and Harlem, and my co-author has reported equally amazing events in St. Louis, Savannah, and Cincinnati.

    Maybe sometime when I have a minute, I’ll write a post about some of what I’ve seen. Hint: Want to get African Americans of multiple denominations to attend an event in an LDS church? FAMILY HISTORY is the key. And a presentation on Blacks in the Bible (Darius does a bang-up job) is a real draw.

  58. Mark Brown says:

    FAMILY HISTORY is the key

    I was just thinking about this yesterday.

    I bet missionaries would be well-received if they were presented as a sort of geek squad, guys who will come and help you set up a family tree maker on your home computer with no strings attached.

  59. Mike S, #55 – are you my husband? :) You sound a lot like him. Even if you’re not, I love your comment.

    #19 – That’s wonderful! I wish there were more focus in general on service to the community instead of only within the church. Imagine what a better image the church would have if we were known for true service instead of mysterious rituals, polygamy, and anti-gay political campaigns.

  60. #59:

    Nope. Don’t think so. Sounds like we think alike, though.

  61. Jim Donaldson says:

    I’m with Mike S (#55) too.

    I really do believe the church is true and I attend every damn Sunday because I believe it. But the public member experience is hit and miss at best. I long for the day when the leadership focuses on the worship experience of the membership: intelligent, thoughtful talks well prepared, stimulating classes that meet the needs of every level; serious opportunities for meaningful service, and so on. To put it in crass marketing terms, the best way to increase sales is to improve the product.

    I think we need to simplify what we do until we can do this better. We need much greater emphasis on many fewer things. Diffuse, half-assed programs and services annoy the membership and massively slow down the missionary work. And because we have no vocabulary for discussion to bring about improvement, members mostly rely on passive resistance as the only way of making our wishes felt, and that cripples the church at the same time.

    I know I’m cynical, negative, and harsh. But we can PR all day and all night long, and send missionaries out all over in ever-increasing numbers, but nothing will change until the experience of being a member is better. Then those things will take care of themselves, mostly. When sacrament meeting is what it should be, we’ll never have to empty the font.

  62. I called prop 8 a PR debacle because of anecdotal evidence: after prop 22 passed baptisms dropped. If you win by 52 percent and 48 percent won’t speak to you this is a political win but an overall defeat for the church in terms of its primary goal, saving souls. (Maybe liberal souls are not worth saving, some would say.)

    This is PR in the global sense of public perception a la #55, not the professional sense of a PR department.

    During the equal rights amendment “fight”, when it first came out I thought is was a perfect fit for the Church. We have had a long history of equal political rights. We have a Mother in Heaven who is God’s full partner and equal, etc. But rather than join, they fought. In my opinion another PR debacle.

    In the end, fighting equal rights did very little. Over the last 30 years society has almost fully accepted the fundamentals of equal rights. What could have been a real PR coup for the Church turned into another confrontation. Prop 8 seems like a complete repeat of this. Society is moving in the direction that will completely overtake Prop 8 in another 20 years or so. Church opposition will simply not matter in the long run. But in the short run, what could be a neutral or a plus turns into a real negative.

    Like with equal rights, the younger generations are not in sync and will come away from the whole discussion turned off, in general. This is bad PR in the global sense.

    What I personally like about the Church is its godly humanism, the part that Gordon B. Hinckley said that he did not know what it was or meant? (As man is …. ?) So rather than selling our compelling message about our divine kinship, the love of a real heavenly father and mother, who love us so much that we do not have a hell, we waste it on a) trying to be the same as everyone else or b) distracting our message with this divisive stuff that does not make any difference in the long run. Rather it takes away from the universal love message that God wants us to succeed and be happy.

    What PR! We exist to have joy! What other Church can say that. Why be divisive? Divisions diminish joy and foster misunderstanding and fertilize hate.

  63. re: 55
    That’s very touching to hear from an active member. I sure wish openly gay people could be members without having to attempt permanent celibacy or lie about it if they can’t.

  64. “I’d like to see local units of the church perform service without needing to get a write-up in the local paper every time it’s done.”

    Most local of the units do this either because a) they don’t think to send it in to the paper b) they send it in but the paper doesn’t print it or c) they have a savvy pr person who knows that unless there’s a real angle to the service, a unique story, it’s better to just keep media relations out of it because it won’t be an effective use of time and cultural capital.

    PR these days is (or should be) less about pitching stories to the media and more about making sure that an organization truly lives up to its mission and clearly communicates that via actions and words. If the motivation behind community service is to get good press, then UR doin’ it wrong. In my opinion, the key reason to have people in a stake who think about PR (e.g. a stake public affairs committee) is to encourage members to better integrate with the community and provide them with the tools to do so. A secondary reason is to provide members with ways they can effectively discuss the Church with those not of our faith. And by effective I don’t mean “convincing” — I simply mean being able to speak coherently, civilly and informed-ly (and know how to listen, too).

    I am, of course, biased (I work in higher education public relations/marketing and was recently called to serve on my stake’s public affairs committee), but I’d like to see a full 2/3 of all ward activities be community service oriented. And I’d like to see 5th Sunday lessons on ways to become more involved in one’s community (and in healthy online communities) complete with specific lists and members of the ward talking about what they do and why they enjoy it. And I’d love for home teaching appointments to be at soup kitchens and Lion’s club meetings and at the charity fundraiser at the local bar.

  65. 57 & 62
    Margaret & BobW,
    .
    Family history has been very helpful in reaching the African-American community here in SoCal. Here’s a video of the 6th annual “Discover Your Your Roots” African-American family history conference held in the Los Angeles Stake Center (if your eyes are sharp, you’ll spot Darius sitting at a table in the middle of the hall from 2:00 until he’s off-camnera on the right at 2:06). A huge majority of the attenders were not LDS.

    .
    Likewise, I’ve watched our solid support for Prop 8 be a PR coup with the African-American community here. It also has given me credibility in religious conversations with people of all ethnicities and faiths because we “stand for something” and are effective and so must be taken seriously, even if not in agreement. This credibility, even if not in agreement, opens the way to invite others to test our message seriously for themselves to understand why I don’t agree with their self-accepted thinking.

  66. For those queasy about PR for our service, consider our calling to “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. ” (Mt 5:16).
    .
    I see this not as saying that we are anybody special — we’re not — but that these works are the effect of our Father’s influence on ordinary people who are your brothers and sisters. Come, see, and partake.

  67. Kevin Barney says:

    Like Margaret, I too have seen amazingly cool work done by local PR people. Extremely cool stuff. I’m grateful that local PR happens to be my church calling at the moment.

  68. I am the PR person for our little Branch, which mostly means putting articles in the paper when someone leaves on a mission, comes home from a mission or gets his Eagle. None of those things are earth shaking news, but the articles let the folks around here know a little bit about what goes on in our lives. At the last Branch Council I finally convinced them to put a weekly paragraph describing the plans for our Sunday meetings in the Saturday Church section of our local paper. Maybe someone will see that their neighbor is giving a talk or that we are discussing how to deal with adversity in RS and decide to come to church.

    As far as the electronic media goes, I have lots of LDS as friends, as well as some family who are 7th Day Adventists and a woman I grew up with who lives in NYC and does a lot of posting on Gay Rights, racial predjudice and various liberal ideas. I hope that all my friends will learn from each other and maybe some will even like what they learn about the church. At least they will know that a Mormon can have friends with other beliefs.

  69. Getting some exposure in the newspaper around here is important because most people don’t even know there is an LDS Chuch here. They think our Elders are JW.

  70. I think Kevin Barney has it absolutely right about PR. It is about getting the church to be part of the community, not about getting individuals to be members. These goals are certainly very compatible, but they are not the same.

    On Prop 8:
    Of course Prop 8 was net-negative PR for the church, even if the majority did vote for it. For those who were on our side, I doubt LDS involvement in Prop 8 changed their opinion about the church very much, if at all. Perhaps a very, very minor net gain, spread out among slightly larger population. However, for those who are not on the same side as the church is on the gay marriage debate, Prop 8 certainly had a huge negative effect on their opinion of the church

    There is no way the positive effects, if they exist, could cancel out the negative effects.

    I don’t think we lost anything with those already inclined to be on our side. But unless we gained a heck of a lot with them because of Prop 8, there is just no way it balances out.

    This doesn’t mean Prop 8 wasn’t worth the fight. However, I do think it means that if Prop 8 was worth the fight, it is in spite of the PR effect, not because of it.

    Also: Bbell is right about Blue Bell Ice cream. It truly is superior to any store-bought ice cream I’ve ever had.

  71. #30 Jeremy-

    One resource that I think fits your description is “Mormonism: A Very Short Introduction” by Bushman. Great for the curious but not interested (as well as the interested).

  72. 57 & 62
    Margaret & BobW,
    .
    Family history has been very helpful in reaching the African-American community here in SoCal. Here’s a video of the 6th annual “Discover Your Your Roots” African-American family history conference held in the Los Angeles Stake Center (if your eyes are sharp, you’ll spot Darius sitting at a table in the middle of the hall from 2:00 until he’s off-camnera on the right at 2:06). A huge majority of the attenders were not LDS.
    youtube[DOT]com/watch?v=rLTJQ19aUAo&feature=channel_page
    .
    Likewise, I’ve watched our solid support for Prop 8 be a PR coup with the African-American community here. It also has given me credibility in religious conversations with people of all ethnicities and faiths because we “stand for something” and are effective and so must be taken seriously, even if not in agreement. This credibility, even if not in agreement, opens the way to invite others to test our message seriously for themselves to understand why I don’t agree with their self-accepted thinking.

  73. Kyle, I thought it was interesting that your guest from Salt Lake was in your community to ask Mormons what the community thought of them. If SL really wants to know what other people think of Mormons, they should ask them. I think that active church members are really insulated from what people “really” think of Mormons, because the majority of people are just too polite to ask the questions they really want to, or to convey the opinions they really have. Add to that the fact that mormons tend to be kind of self-congratulatory in the way they pass on “community opinion” evidence. we’re happy to repeat stories about people who said things like “wow, I’ve always really admired mormons for xyz (WoW, church attendance, clean cutness, strong families etc.).” We talk about that in testimony meetings, in lessons, they make their way into manuals etc. etc. We don’t repeat the “wow, I’ve always been really suspicious of mormons becaus of xyz (racist, misogynist, homophobe, secretive, clannish, funny underwear etc)” because it’s unpleasant and we don’t want to hear it. The fact of the matter is, though, that it’s out there and people say it when they don’t know the faith of the listener. If the church is serious about PR that combats real perceptions, they need to get those perceptions unfiltered–as unpleasant as it may be.

  74. Stephanie says:

    Karen H, your comment reminded me of Elder L. Tom Perry’s talk from Women’s Conference of this year.

    http://www.byub.org/talks/Talk.aspx?id=3591

    It was titled, “For the Strength of the Lord: The Image of the Church”, and it was about how others perceive us and what we should do about it.

  75. Karen, I totally agree. I’m sure my friends’ rosy opinions about my faith aren’t voiced in quite the same way when I’m not around.

    I was happy to hear from The Man from Salt Lake that he typically speaks with non-mormons while conducting his research. I guess this particular info-gathering session was more meta than most: Asking US what WE think THEY think about US.

  76. I called prop 8 a PR debacle because of anecdotal evidence: after prop 22 passed baptisms dropped.

    I still don’t see the evidence that this was a bad thing. Who didn’t get baptized as a result? Potential members who might have had issues with the doctrine behind the effort?

  77. # 55
    Well said

  78. Latter-day Guy says:

    I still don’t see the evidence that this was a bad thing. Who didn’t get baptized as a result? Potential members who might have had issues with the doctrine behind the effort?

    Oh, well, that’s okay then. As long as they aren’t––you know––God’s children or anything.

  79. 75 & 77: From the land of anecdotal evidence:
    Prop 8 was worse than Prop 22 in terms of PR, yet the mission I live in (Anaheim, CA) is hopping with work right now–so much so that we’re getting a huge bump in the number of missionaries over the next several months.

    What does this mean? Quite possibly, absolutely nothing.

  80. #78 We were baptized in the Buena Park 2nd Ward in Jan 1984, which I believe is part of the Anaheim Mission. When were you there?

  81. #69:
    I’ve never had Blue Bell ice cream (although I’ll certainly try it if I’m ever in Texas), but no way it’s as good as Ciao Bella. Sadly, although I could get Ciao Bella at most grocery stores in New York and at Whole Foods in Virginia, it doesn’t appear to be available in Chicago, so I’ll have to find a new brand.

  82. [nr] #79–
    I was 4 years old in Preston, Idaho in January 1984.

  83. My source a relative by marriage who is a MP in southern CA informs me that baptisms in his mission went up after prop 8. He sees no evidence of a decline in baptism from Prop 8. That is just his mission so I am not sure what happened state wide.

    I welcome a Ice Cream taste off…

  84. Scott B., Orange County is definitely not representative of Southern California, as you no doubt know. I don’t know all the stats for PR here or missionary efforts, but I know that the members, especially the youth, are getting blasted by criticism here in LA county!

  85. Anecdotal evidence is … anecdotal. After Prop 22 passed the missionaries were in the dumps. I asked them why they were having such a hard time, to which they hesitantly admitted that prop 22 was “the” cause. I was generalizing to prop 8, and, admittedly, Santa Cruz, CA, is not the most representative place vis a vis Anaheim. Anyway, getting doors slammed in faces while tracting is not the same as baptisms.

    I will admit that the Missionaries are still busy in our area and are making some converts. (The work is not red hot here.)

    Many of the baptisms, again anecdotally, do not come from the most educated and informed strata of society. In these cases PR one way or another would not make much difference. Probably not prop 8, either.

    Who are we targeting for our PR? My guess would be relatively young educated middle class people just starting families with strong family values. These would be the golden contacts. We do not see many of these people joining the Church here, again, anecdotally. Many of the people I see joining the Church are from different strata. (But Jesus did not claim to be building on anything else. One notable success recently were a couple living just above street level living in a welfare hotel. The Church has truly revitalized their lives. Another is a young family whose husband is undocumented.) These young, relatively educated people would be the most negatively influenced by negative political campaigns. Note the Democratic successes recently among the educated and young.

    As I write, it does not appear to me that the PR question can be answered simply because we do not know the target market nor the response of the target market to PR efforts.

  86. 84–Umm, yep. My “anecdotal” evidence was in response to another person’s “anecdotal” evidence for the express purpose of demonstrating that their evidence was, in fact, anecdotal.

  87. Scott B,
    Point taken :)
    Just continuing on that anecdotal train!

  88. Well, Scott B, you weren’t even old enough to ge baptized yourself, much less baptize others. I guess I will go back to my rocking chair on the porch now.

  89. Hmm, after prop 8 I had one person from SoCal tell me he’d lost any respect he had at all for Mormons and had heard that many of his friends and family were actively discriminating against Mormons, at least socially. He (and his friends) are probably not potential converts in any case, but they could have been friends.

  90. merrybits says:

    Thank you #55 and #61. I agree that “Church” as a product needs to be improved. Following Christ’s simple message of love and respect would be great if the leaders would just leave it at that and try not to “improve” upon it with silly and inconsequential ideas

  91. Intriguing post.

    I believe Missionary work and PR does need to be on a more viral approach. We live in gated communities and only open our door for UPS. We’d rather consult Google and our friends on Facebook than we would some stranger at our door. If I want to know how an In and Out burger tastes, I’m not going to inandout.com to find out. The question is what we can do as members to cast a better light on what is being said about being “Mormon,” and how to encourage other members to jump in as well. We’ve come a long way from being told “no websites,” to “start a blog” and “share Youtube MormonMessages.”

    Oftentimes it seems we as members wait for the call, and then once we get the call, we wait for the instructions. The call is there and probably everyone reading this already has a blog and mentions from time to time about what it’s like to be “Mormon.” Maybe then we should be sharing the knowledge we’ve gained in how to be most effective online with those who aren’t as knowledgeable. Maybe we should be taking that step to not only start our blog, but get our friends and family hooked too.

    No matter what social media sites the Church enters, they will be hindered by being the official voice. The Church can’t show the uniqueness and individual testimony of each “Mormon.” Your voice may resonate with someone in a way mine cannot. If we all get our voices out there then maybe we can break “Mormonism” out of the cookie-cutter stereotype that we’re all the same. Maybe then will our Missionaries be able to spend their time teaching, because those who are interested will have found them.

  92. http://www.sltrib.com/faith/ci_12946018

    on the side bar. Peggy Fletcher Stack discusses a Pew Research Poll of Mormons. There is a section on converts.

    The poll states exactly what my anecdotal evidence suggests, that the converts are not main stream, less educated in general, lower income, more ethnic, older, less married, etc. This does indicate that we have a bifurcated PR program. Our real target market should be ethnics, less educated, with lower incomes. Whereas our corporate PR target market is, as I indicated above, younger family oriented middle class with good educations.

    This bifurcation makes it difficult for us educated, and possibly higher income people to talk to our friends who have definite opinions informed by current events. (It also makes it harder to retain these informed people who are on the cusp of deciding whether to stay with the Church.)

  93. Dispelling misperceptions is PR, no doubt. If after 150 years, 7 out of 10 people who have seen our ads and talked with missionaries at some point, are unable to state our main claim, it means that grass roots efforts are needed to support the tremendous efforts the Church has made to be involved more visibly in the media, and to make contacts with gatekeepers worldwide. And that is exactly what Elder Ballard has invited us, called us to do.

    Twitter, Facebook, social media are the kinds of things President Kimball and other preceding prophets alluded to as the very technologies that would come in our day that would have ‘staggering’ implications for missionary work and the spread of the gospel globally. The Church has adopted many of these tools in their own outreach, and we can do likewise in our own unofficial sphere and capacity.

    The viral approach, blogging, getting authentic content out about our ‘whole’ lives and not just our Sunday lives, will do wonders to change perceptions and invite others to join in a conversation with us. We often talk to ourselves about the accomplishments of our youth, the words of the Brethren, the impact of spiritual insights, our hobbies and the impetus our faith gives us in the most trying circumstances. Those conversations need to move more and more to the virtual world, and they are–made more visible to others in viral ways. And people will come. They are coming.

    The Internet is really the modern-day ‘net’ or place of gathering; amplified for good it becomes a literal tool and venue for the gathering of the elect.

    The difference is only that we speak as individuals and not collectively; we don’t speak as someone in PA or offer a position for the Church. There is a place for the official word and that will always be the Public Affairs office and their team, and the Brethren. But we have much to do to assist them as everyday members. There is power in being a peer voice.

    One person can make an inestimable difference online.

  94. BobW,

    Perhaps those demographics are more likely to join the Church because they are humble, they have an open door, and because they haven’t been soured by the media and half-truths spread online. Since we’ve already lost the educated side to the manipulation of the media/Internet, we should just give up? What kind of leadership does the Church need?

    I’m not suggesting we knock on every social media website and force an agenda, but at least be willing to give another side to the story. On the internet we can share ourselves without plopping ourselves in our neighbor’s couch to tell him how his life can be better. We put it out there and friends or some random Googler can take or leave what we have to say with no pressure or obligation.

  95. There is much that both the Church and individual members can do online from Pull PR and Newsroom Optimization Tactics to Making News Content Search & Social Media Friendly. Individual members can assist by creating a blog and sharing their beliefs online (see WordPress SEO), Using Twitter to Pick Up Easy Search Traffic and Optimize Links to their posts.

  96. My biggest issue is about speaking “individually” about the church, because in many instances, my feelings don’t mesh with the “official” or “unofficial” Church policies. I disagree with their stance on Proposition 8 (although fortunately don’t live in California so wasn’t forced into the issue). I think evolution was used by God. I don’t like the cookie cutter appearance of a bunch of clean-shaven white-shirted men massed on the stand in General Conference. I don’t think that tattoos or earrings have any significance to someone’s spirituality. I have a hard time swallowing statements about how we are going to ignore the US immigration laws. I don’t have a good answer as to why women’s garments have cap sleeves. I don’t have a good answer as to why we had polygamy, why blacks couldn’t have the priesthood, why we ignore some plain parts of the WofW and reinterpret other parts beyond the mark, whether tithing is actually on net or gross, and many other things.

    My strategy for church PR: live a Christ-centered live to the best of my ability, love my neighbor, serve him/her, be honest in my personal and business dealings, etc. If this touches someone’s life, great. Otherwise, the Church has enough things I can’t explain that I don’t know that I can do much else to answer their questions.

  97. merrybits says:

    Going out on a limb here…it would be nice if our (at least my) sacrament meetings weren’t so completely boring. With all the emphasis put on reverence (meaning: be quiet) and the funeral-durge like hymns, I have a hard time inviting friends when, here in Los Angeles, there are many more musically and physically engaging places to worship.

  98. If SL really wants to know what other people think of Mormons, they should ask them.

    FWIW, I think they have. From Elder Perry, summed up here:

    “51 percent of people have no awareness of Mormon practices and beliefs…. 47 percent of people do not have a favorable view of Mormons…. 31 percent of people believe that Mormons are not Christian….These statistics clearly show the imperfect way we have communicated who we are and what we believe….How do we close the gap between how we see ourselves and how the world sees us?”

    Elder Perry then addressed that question in his talk.

    To the OP, I think PR and missionary work are different. There is enough misunderstanding out there that some people simply aren’t ready to listen to any missionary message.

    PR is also in my mind more a macro-level thing — getting info about to large numbers of people. Missionary work has pretty much always been a more personal one-by-one experience.

    I also see PR as filling more a need for information when someone is in the stage of simply being curious. Missionary work is for those who are seriously considering the faith at a more ‘is this for me? level.

    Of course there can be crossover, but those are some differences I see.

  99. #95 – I agree. There are many issues that are so confused, even at the top levels (or ignored or glossed over) that people outside the church with questions can’t get a straight answer. The WoW is a good example. I had a friend who wanted to know why Mormons could only drink decaf coffee. I don’t know where she got that from, but I gave her a different answer about what the WoW covers, and she would have gotten yet a third interpretation from my brother, who researched chocolate to determine if it actually had caffeine in it and was therefore against the WoW.

    We have gotten so hung up on the trappings and made everything so complicated that WE don’t even know what is doctrine.

  100. Latter-day Guy says:

    Re: 97, “…47 percent of people do not have a favorable view of Mormons…”

    I have to confess that, although a life-long member, some days I am numbered among that 47 percent. (With my current ward, those days are very rare, luckily.) In any case, there have been times (and there will likely be such times in the future) where my drive to share the gospel/represent the church was limited by the fact that I did not want to confess I was associated (e.g.: when a member had done or said something particularly thoughtless/stupid/evil/etc). Lately, my efforts at brand management have been wholly occupied with not trying to be “that person” for other members; I scarcely have energy left to do anything more proactive.

  101. My strategy for church PR: live a Christ-centered live to the best of my ability, love my neighbor, serve him/her, be honest in my personal and business dealings, etc. If this touches someone’s life, great. Otherwise, the Church has enough things I can’t explain that I don’t know that I can do much else to answer their questions.

    I think being a good example is critical.

    Re: not being able to explain everything… There is a part of me that wonders if maybe we ought to be doing more of helping people see that there is so much more to the Church than the hot-button questions that get asked. Or of trying to interpret every jot and tittle for them (like “extras” re: the WoW that shouldn’t be touched at all, even w/in the Church).

    Of course, I’m not saying ignore their questions (pretending they don’t exist doesn’t help, I know) but as karenrose said above, none of us can speak for the Church anyway, so trying to explain things we can’t really give definitive statements on may not be the best way to help the cause. I think we can acknowledge the questions, but also acknowledge that none of us has all the answers, but that we CAN find answers to some things, and help them see what we do know…you know, in the Elder Andersen’s “You know enough” kind of way.

    We don’t even have to LIKE everything about the Church, but we CAN share what we DO like. :)

    What I hear Elder Ballard and others saying is to reflect more what the Church means to us. How and why it helps us in our day-to-day lives.

    e.g., Elder Ballard says:

    I am talking about taking part in everyday conversations in an unforced way, where your values and your religious beliefs will arise naturally. No one likes to have religion thrust down their throats.

    Instead, allow people to see how your beliefs lift and shape your life for the better. How does the gospel help you as a parent engage with your teens? How do your values encourage you to participate in civic affairs? How has your experience as a home or visiting teacher enlarged your compassion or care for the sick and needy? How has your Church life helped you to avoid such things as pornography and immorality? How have family councils or home evenings helped you resolve differences of opinion with members of your family? How has your experience in speaking in church helped you address large public groups? Where did you learn to respect and not to criticize other faiths? And so on.

    We can each speak for ourselves about these kinds of topics. We don’t need to have all the answers to all the questions to help both with PR (helping people see into our lives a bit, dispelling myths about who we are) and with missionary work (inviting people to ask God for themselves if our basic, core message is true).

    In short, I think sometimes too much focus on the hot-button questions can be a distraction from the simplicity of the gospel at its core, and the simple ways it enriches our lives.

  102. “In short….” Ha. That was a looong comment!

  103. Oh, yeah, and I forgot to include a link for that quote…it’s different from the talk linked in the OP. (He’s given a few.) You can find the one that includes the quote above here.

  104. Frank Bisti says:

    In my long (61 years) experience in the church, I have heard only 2 or 3 times the use of a key, true principle with regard to this topic. That is, if you “love” your friends and neighbors you will naturally “share the gospel.” So, the only sincere, righteous method is to first get to know and love them.

    As I came to grasp this core truth, I saw all the local and SLC “PR” efforts as wrong-headed. Remember when the church used to set up opportunities to showcase famous Mormons (Steve Young, Johnny Miller, etc)? In short, I no longer take part in Stake “service projects” that are only PR projects–to show that we Mormons are nice, giving people. And, the supposed kudos or improvement in our image is our reward–think “sounding brass and tinkling cymbals” (as if “rewards” even exist).

  105. Count me among those who sees the PR people as a net negative. I remember what a wonderful thing I thought Henry Eyring’s talk at Mountain Meadows was. I saw it as a transitional event. The next day, an AP article quoted a church PR person (unnamed, IIRC) as saying “that should not be construed as an apology.” “Profound regret” is not an apology?

    I remember my response to that article so clearly: Every time I think the church is doing the right thing, I’m wrong.

  106. Steve Evans says:

    Frank (#103), if you have only heard that principle 2 or 3 times in 61 years, I propose that you have not been listening very closely.

  107. Re 82-86:

    It’s all anecdotal, but a sibling who returned from an AZ mission last month reported that interest in the Church doubled (by almost any conceivable number) after Prop 102 last fall…

  108. I’m sure interest in the church quadrupled everywhere in the US. We were in the news constantly, of course people want to know more about us. Whether the interest is positive or negative depends entirely on the views that those people already hold.

  109. In response to Mormon ads being geared for Mormons. Here is a non-member’s, I assume, response to a Mormon ad.

    http://cdashnaw.wordpress.com/2009/01/01/make-your-readers-take-notice/

    I found it funny to see what someone else thought of the ads.

  110. To me, PR falls under the Missionary work umbrella. I think marketing and brand perception is something the Church needs to focus on much more. The Church’s reputation management tends to be more reactive than proactive, and that’s got to change if we are to make headway. As for the Mormon.org banner ads and paid search ads that I have seen, I have not been impressed with most of them. But with a little refinement and better landing pages, these advertisements could be much more effective.

  111. Eric Russell says:

    I think we should spread our message by shouting at people in public parks and city buses, and then assuming that anyone who does not pay attention is not elect. That’s the way it works in Brazil, and they’ve been pretty successful down there.

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