There's been quite a bit of buzz here in Manhattan about the recent elevation of Archbishop Timothy Dolan to cardinal (the Roman Catholic Church Cardinal, not the Arizona or St. Louis variety).
Dolan comes across as a hale-and-hearty man of the people who, in his inaugural remarks as Cardinal-in-chief, told New Yorkers that the Red Sox weren't the enemy, the Devil was. I thought that was a nice tie-in to the beginning of baseball's Spring Training.
But, Dolan is wrong. The Roman Catholic Church's enemy isn't the devil. To paraphrase Pogo, 'The Church has met the enemy and they is us' (actually, Church leaders know they're their own worst enemy, but they're in complete denial). And, the brand of Catholicism is suffering as a result of their parochial view.
According to a HuffPo article, “…untold numbers of people have left the Roman Catholic Church. In a 2008 survey, Pew research found that one in 10 Americans now consider themselves an ex-Catholic.”
Personally, I consider myself a Recovering Catholic.
The HuffPo article says the Church has launched an advertising campaign inviting prodigal parishioners (and bloggers, one would assume) to 'come home'.
The advertising won't work for two reasons:
- Advertising fails miserably when used to gain, or regain, trust. Consumers recognize (and reject) advertising as a ploy by an organization to say what it, and it alone, wants to say about itself. It's the ultimate top down, inside out marketing strategy (as opposed to word of mouth, social media and public relations, which rely on listening first and then engaging in conversations in authentic ways).
- The Church's twin policies of celibacy and pro-life reflect the world view of old white men. As is the case with many Fortune 500 corporations, critically-needed change is being retarded with the Church because the guy in the corner office is too far removed from the wants and needs of his audience.
A PR Week reporter asked me what one piece of advice I'd provide to the CEOs of energy companies and Wall Street firms (both of whom finished dead last in a new Harris Interactive 'trust' survey). “That's easy,” I responded. “The CEO's need to leave their corner offices, put themselves in their customers' shoes and experience their brands from the outside in.” Only then will they truly grasp the hostility their greedy,
out-of-touch actions have caused.
I'm sure Cardinal Dolan is a humble guy. I even saw him dishing out food to parishioners on Ash Wednesday. But, while he may have been feeding his flock's bodies, I guarantee he wasn't listening to what was on their minds.
People are fleeing the Church because, like many other dysfunctional brands, it's making the classic mistake of not listening to audience wants and needs, and changing its ways to become relevant again.
Unless something changes soon, it may be time for The Vatican to call in one of its own to administer last rites to the brand. I'd suggest it's already on life support, but I'm not sure of the Church's stance on artificially prolonging life.