IMBISA NEW MEDIA WORKSHOP
20th – 24th May 2013
Cape Town, South Africa
“…media and communications are part of the social teachings of the church and are another way to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.”
The aim of the workshop was to introduce these people to new forms of media and technology in order to provide a wider forum for evangelisation, promote good governance and justice and peace in accordance with Africae Munus and to improve communication between conferences in the region.
It was intended that the workshop would strengthen the Catholic Churches internal communication network in the IMBISA region and place it in a position of strength to communicate with all people in the region as the use of the internet and new media grows.
The workshop was designed for General Secretaries and Communications Coordinators of Bishops Conferences in the IMBISA Region. Twelve representatives of the Bishops conferences in Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe were attendance. The aim of the workshop was to introduce these people to new forms of media and technology in order to provide a wider forum for evangelisation, promote good governance and justice and peace in accordance with Africae Munus and to improve communication between conferences in the region. It was intended that the workshop would strengthen the Catholic Churches internal communication network in the IMBISA region and place it in a position of strength to communicate with all people in the region as the use of the internet and new media grows.
In order to facilitate these aims a number of experts and communications professionals were engaged to present on a range of topics, case studies and practical sessions.
The keynote address was presented by Mr Benedito Marime (see picture below) on the topic of Africae Munus and the media. Mr Marime explored how the Catholic Church sees the media and how the media can be used by the church in promoting good governance and justice and peace.
He said that media and communications are part of the social teachings of the church and are another way to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. He then gave an analysis of how the church has used the media throughout history, for instance Pope Pius XII in 1941 used the radio to speak out about World War II and Pope Paul VI in his encyclical ‘Evangelis Nuntiandi’ emphasised the growing influence of the media and how social communications can be used to “take the good news to millions of people….. spreading to all households the message that the church holds in a newer, modern version of the pulpit.” Africae Munus views the media not only as a means of communication but as a world to be evangelised, as they are a significant force for the development of the continent and for evangelisation.
In conclusion Mr Marime said that Africae Munus can be seen as calling for the media to be utilised to promote the aims of the Catholic Church of which good governance and justice and peace are important parts. Therefore all media should be used to put the ideals of the church into practice.
Introduction to the internet and social media
Attendees were then addressed by Mr David Duarte (see picture below), a global expert in the internet and the use/influence of social media. He gave a run down of the influence of the internet around the globe and then put it in the context of Africa. He said that although Africa can be seen as the „dark continent‟ of internet use this is changing very rapidly. In the last 4 years the amount of internet use in Africa has increased six fold and this trend is expected to continue. He sees 2014 as the year
that the internet becomes main stream in Africa so by developing websites and good social media networks now you will be ahead of the game.
He continued by directly addressing social media saying that it is where ordinary citizens can express themselves and as it is global their opinions can potentially reach millions of people. It is instant and remains on line as a record of your activities. He took the participants through various social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook and WordPress showing the key features of each application, their advantages and disadvantages and how they are changing the way people receive information and communicate. He described how as publishers of information the conferences communications
departments need to follow and understand the 1-9-90 rule on the creation and consumption of content on social media. By targeting the 9% who primarily comment on content we can increase our
interaction and as a result increase the reach and impact of our message. The more interactions that we can achieve will directly influence our ability to reach the 90% who are the consumers. The group was then told what kind of content works best on each platform and the best ways to reach their target audience. Mr Duarte underlined the importance of visual media and that articles/posts with pictures are 94% more likely to be viewed and that in Africa due to low literacy rates images that can convey a message are extremely important. He concluded by asking participants to think about what they wanted to achieve through their use of the internet and social media and spent a few minutes collecting the groups thoughts. The main achievements identified were to spread good news, increase interest in church activities, engage with people outside the church and increase participation and communication.
Case Study 1 – IMBISA Communications
Mr Simon Jeffery, a volunteer with IMBISA, then presented to the group showing how over the last few months he had made numerous changes to the IMBISA communications department using new and social media. The idea behind the presentation was to inspire the attendees and show them what could be achieved with limited resources and little experience. Mr Jeffery covered the problems that he faced when arriving at the organisation such as low profile, limited resources, high cost of website updates, long lag time between an event happening and getting the information out, reliance on print media and a lack of consistency in communications. He then detailed how social media and the
development of a detailed communications database have been used to overcome these problems. By using Facebook and Twitter information can be disseminated easily, instantly and for free. In the past 6 months it has saved at least $500 in website update costs alone, thus giving IMBISA more ownership and freedom to post online. It also provides a record of activities for the organisation, strengthening organisational memory. He described how social media has been used create a greater impact which has resulted in IMBISA activities being featured in regional secular and religious media over the last few months. He concluded by telling the attendees how IMBISA hopes to continue developing this new media use in the future by creating a media strategy and compiling „how to‟
manuals which will be used to empower the conferences and bishops in the regional to create their own social media sites.
On day two of the workshop Mr Jeffery live tweeted in order to show attendees how this can be done and how effective a tool for communication twitter can be. The tweets can be access in the following link. https://twitter.com/IMBISA
Case Study 2 – Catholic Parliamentary Liaison Office (CPLO)
Mr Mike Potier addressed the workshop on how the CPLO is using new media to increase its reach and ensure that the right people are receiving its briefings and bulletins. They have created a twitter site which is used primarily to direct people to their website when a new briefing has been uploaded to the site. They also do live tweeting at CPLO roundtables in an effort to increase interest in their activities. They view their website as their main tool and have a dedicated member of staff who updates the website regularly thus avoiding the need for costly updates from an external contractor. Mike said the main things that they wanted from their website was an attractive, professional appearance, accessible information and for it to be up to date. He added that if your website does not have these important aspects then it will not achieve its goals. He stressed the importance of keeping the site up to date and ensuring that when they e-mail briefings to ministers that the website is also
updated with the same information. Mr Potier concluded by speaking about the CPLO‟s use of traditional media and how this should not be forgotten as a significant proportion of their audience still prefers to receive paper documents and booklets.
Creation of Websites and Twitter Accounts
Day 2 began with the return of Mr Dave Duarte who led a session on how to create and update websites using WordPress and how to create a personal and organisational twitter profile.The result was the creation of 13 new websites ranging from personal sites (e.g. http://richardmenatsi.wordpress.com/about/) to specific sites for the conferences
communications and justice and peace departments (e.g. http://lcbcccjp.wordpress.com/ and http://mutadanza.wordpress.com/).
IMBISA also created a new website http://imbisa.wordpress.com/ which will be used as the main website and updated with new articles as well as historical documents. Each attendee also created a personal Twitter profile and followed the @IMBISA twitter account. This will ensure they receive information from IMBISA as soon as it
Each conference made a brief presentation on how they utilised the media in their own countries and challenges that they faced in using new media. A lively debate followed with each conference offering advice on how to make improvements and solutions to the challenges faced.
As remarked earlier a total of 13 new websites and 13 new twitter accounts were created. All attendees remarked on how much hey enjoyed the workshop and how they believed that the skills they had learned could benefit their conferences. It could be seen that there was an enthusiasm to utilise new media but there were a number of concerns. The most common concerns were a fear of technology, time implications, costs of uploading content as many conferences are charged per megabyte and lack of internet access from the local population in their countries. It was decided that IMBISA should form a hub of communication with the region and that all conference social communications co-ordinators would pass information on to IMBISA on a regular basis and using the IMBISA communications database this information can be passed onto the regions Bishops and other interested stakeholders. The conferences also agreed to ensure that IMBISA is updated with all plenary minutes, new appointments and resignations in terms of Bishops and conference staff and copies of any regular newsletter produced by the conferences.