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BY Matthew Warner
I recently posted on how Catholics are losing the Search Engine Wars. One of the groups we are losing to is the Mormons. I find it fascinating how much active marketing/branding/PR the Mormon church does online.
Whatever they lack in theology/history/etc. they seem to do well making up for it in other ways. And that’s probably why they continue to be one of the fastest growing religions. Maybe we Catholics can learn something from that. I’m not saying we need to start going door to door or that we should mimic what they are doing here. But Mormons are doing an impressive job using New Media to reach people and connect with individuals in a way that…works for them.
They recently launched a big ad campaign that, if you’re online much, you’ve probably seen. Personally I’ve come across these ads in Google searches, on Facebook and on many other popular websites. The campaign is very simple and features a lot of normal, everyday Mormons just being themselves. “Hi, I’m Joy. I grew up in Hawaii. I believe that a little salt water cures almost anything and I’m a Mormon.” They include video testimonials and some thoughts regarding their faith.
The Mormons were smart in their approach. I think they took two basic truths and came up with this campaign. 1) Lots of people think Mormons are weird. 2) Once people get to know a Mormon personally, they don’t think they are near as weird as they thought. In fact, they are usually very impressed with such individuals personally, regardless of their strange theology (which rarely comes up anyway).
Some people suspect, because of the concentration of these ads being in a lot of political battleground states, that the Mormon church is trying to grease the wheels for a Mitt Romney (Mormon) presidency in 2012. One of the big hangups for people about Mitt Romney in the past has been discomfort with his Mormonism. Mormons say that was not a consideration with this campaign. But I don’t really care if it was. Why not? If I were them I’d think it was a good idea, too.
They also do a good job with the implementation of this campaign from a New Media standpoint. The website looks good. The videos and testimonies are professionally done. And there is a search feature that lets you find tons of testimonials based on gender, age, race, location and more.
Anyway, the reason I point this out is that Catholics have a PR crisis of our own. I’d love to see a new media campaign that could help with that. Statements from bishop’s conferences and the Vatican are great, but a lot of people don’t hear them.
Now, I don’t think we need a Catholic version of the Mormon campaign. That doesn’t seem to fit us and our needs. And maybe an ad “campaign” is not at all the answer. We’re in our own situation. But I hope there are some high-up Catholics out there that are sitting around coming up with similar kinds of ideas to solve our unique challenges.
Things like Catholics Come Home, OneBillionStories and Fr. Barron’s CATHOLICISM project are great starts. I hope we’ll continue doing more of those kinds of things and getting them out there for the world to experience.