As he spoke to a joint meeting of Congress last week, Pope Francis urged compassion and peace regarding significant issues affecting the United States. His trip to the US not only provoked revelations about government relations, it also proved a great lesson for PR pros around the world. Here are three PR lessons from the pontiff himself.
Pope Francis consistently uses a familiar, honest, casual way of speaking, a sharp contrast with the highly formal style used by previous popes. He also makes personal phone calls, rather than having his secretary send formal messages on his behalf. When something goes wrong in a client’s business, it’s up to the PR team to handle crisis management. Trying to cover up large accidents or even small mistakes by using confusing language and twisted jargon only makes things worse for the company’s image. Being transparent is the best way to earn trust and keep it.
Social Media is Almighty (pun intended)
Although he stands by his belief that social media has made people somewhat lonely, the pope has proven the power social media has when used effectively. He speaks to his 7.4 million Twitter followers in plain language to ensure his message gets across. Social media is a quick and authentic way to communicate with people. If you’re running a social media account for a business, you should still communicate to your followers like they are humans.
Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
If there is one thing Pope Francis is not afraid of, it’s breaking from the norm. In addition to referring to himself as “Bishop of Rome” rather than “Supreme Pontiff” and riding around in a Fiat instead of a limousine, he shows us that breaking the rules can be necessary to get your point across. PR pros can get caught up in pleasing their clients and playing it safe. But no one gets noticed by avoiding risks. Try something new, and have a little fun with your campaign.
The pope seems to have little to do with the PR industry at first glance, but he definitely created the type of media frenzy we all want for our clients. By using his words appropriately and being original, Pope Francis set an example those in PR can emulate as they work to become even better communicators.