With Pope Francis’ visit to three cities in the U.S. this week, there is much talk about what he might say.
This Pope is considered a man of the people and often shares rather progressive comments since his papacy began early in 2013.
Perhaps no Pope before him has had as deep of an understanding of public relations and how to present well to the people. Like all leaders of such a large number of people, he faces the challenge of saying things the right way to be most effective. Such a position, even if he weren’t one of the most influential people in the world requires a lot of politicking.
There are some who believe his skill with PR and politics are one of the major reasons the conclave voted him into the position. The Pope and his communications team brought in a new PR person, Greg Burke, a former reporter for Fox News in Italy. Burke brings an understanding of what the press wants to see, what they need and how to present better.
Greg Burke has made some changes in the Holy See Press Office, which is now more open and inviting. More information is released in English, including newsletters for journalists. Spokespeople are also more available, but he sees many changes he’d still like to make.
Mostly, Burke says he just stays out of the way because Pope Francis doesn’t really need a lot of direction. People see purity in Pope Francis – and it resonates with powerful PR messages, like letting a child cling to him throughout the Pilgrim’s message, or softly holding a man’s face while diligently praying on his behalf. These are the images the press and the people love to see. These are much of the reason he’s making a difference in bringing people back to their faith.
He makes simpler and less lavish choices in a lot of areas for himself as well. Where he lives in the Vatican, his papal robes and jewelry, and he has a more humble style dealing with others. He espouses less judgment and more acceptance. He doesn’t change doctrine – but powerfully, he chooses to focus on good things people can do rather than condemning people when they do not comply with doctrine and dogma. He’s a man who oversees the largest Christian congregation in the world and who puts his robes on one sleeve at a time.
He is probably also the best PR Pope the Catholic Church has ever seen. For more commentary on the Pope visiting the area, and the bigger marketing implications – checkout this article on my blog regarding the Pope and his PR strategy.