Wednesday, May 20

Sharing New Wisdom: Fr Federico Lombardi SJ

"One of the biggest challenges facing us at present is that of interactivity, and, I would say, of 'positive interactivity'... In recent years the Internet has been for us an important tool that has made it possible for us to deliver content to countless users of all kinds. Now, however, the reality of the situation that is emerging is one in which the great thing is not simply content distribution, but greater and greater interactivity." — Fr Federico Lombardi SJ

While sometimes dismissed by business, government, and nonprofit organizations, the Catholic Communications Network issued a release yesterday that speaks volumes about the viability of new communication. In fact, Fr Lombardi, rather than considering the Internet a means to spread a message across the Internet, suggests something that has long been held true by the best participants.

It's about engagement.

The release includes Fr Lombardi's entire lecture to an audience of media professionals at Allen Hall at the Diocese of Westminster’s seminary and a PDF that outlines dozens of key points. Of note, Fr Lombardi offers how the press office had shown him how there is a need to establish a more organic and constructive dialogue and exchange "between the communications organs of the Holy See and today’s world of social communications — for today’s world is rapidly becoming something vastly different from what it was when my generation first experienced it."

He is exactly right. And while his message may be a message of communicating faith, there is a secondary message that resonates with anyone interested in online communication. One of several standout sections includes the six faces of its abuse. Paraphrased here:

• The face of falsehood, more or less explicit, and often mixed with half-truths.
• The face of pride, of self-referencing and self-centeredness that refuses to listen to other positions.
• The face of oppression and injustice, which denies others the freedom to gather information and give expression.
• The face of debauched sensuality that seeks to use and possess, respecting neither the body nor the image of the other.
• The face of escapism, which seeks refuge in imaginary or virtual worlds, completely subverts the purpose of social media.
• The face of division, which seeks to demolish dialogue, to undermine all efforts at mutual understanding among people.

However, despite the obvious shortcomings, which resemble those long noted by several communicators who employ social media, Fr Lombardi tempers his observations by conveying that new communication requires that we look for those roads [using social media] which will be beneficial for everyone. And, in conclusion, he finds the perfect statement to sum up his thoughts.

"The changes that have taken place in social communications during recent years and decades are obvious to all who have ears to hear and eyes to see." — Fr Federico Lombardi SJ


Libdrone on 5/21/09, 1:02 AM said...

Rich, you and Father Lombardi are SO right that it is all about Engagement. It is all about having two way conversations with other actual human beings. And the people who get all focused on the metrics and stuff are quite, Quite missing the point. Great post per usual.

Rich on 5/24/09, 8:22 AM said...


There has always been a fine balance between exposure and engagement. For my company, we skew toward engagement whenever possible.

For messages like those of Fr Lombardi, engagement is critical. Mere awareness is not enough; people have to find faith and the path is easier for some than others. (Personally, I am fascinated that the Catholic Communications Network is demonstrating it understands social media much more than most people would give it credit. He is right on every point.)

For many others, it is sometimes hard to tell which might drive communication forward. For example, McDonalds is volume driven, but even it invests in engagement over the long term. Burger King, on the other hand, really does not.

Of course, you know all this because you've always been well ahead of the curve. :)

All my best,


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