Monday, August 29, 2011

New P.R. focus: "Missionary Media Initiative"

This anonymous report is circulating around the Internet

I wanted to report in about my experience in church today. The bishop called a rather impromptu 2nd hour meeting, and asked that all over age 14 attend, rather than go to their regular sunday school classes.

Here are my notes:

The focus of the meeting was about profiles. Our stake (and who knows how many others) had a training yesterday with Elder Wright about the "new intiative."
Basically, we're all to "sign up" and have our profiles in to by 9/15. There was no mention about monetary assessments. We will have another ward meeting on 9/18.

The bishop did a PowerPoint presentation to outline the content of yesterday's training. Basically, the church has a "perception problem"! A study (or studies) done in 2009 and involving focus groups showed that others perceive mormons as weird, secretive (28%), cultish (39%), sexist (20%), controlling (38%), conservative (38%), pushy (9%), anti-gay (24%), and family-oriented (44%), among other things. The studies also showed that if people were introduced to individual mormons and got to know them, their negative perceptions softened.

Two PR firms have been hired, and the church is rolling out a "Missionary Media Initiative" starting in October. It'll start out in 8 areas -- San Antonio/Austin, TX; Indianapolis/Ft. Wayne, IN; Omaha, Lincoln-Hastings, NB; Seattle-Tacoma, WA; Spokane, WA; Denver, CO; Atlanta, GA, and Phoenix, AZ.

The initiative, to run from October through mid-March, will involve 30-second TV ads and signage on billboards, buses, etc. In the Phoenix area alone, they're planning to use 30 billboards! The other focus of the initiative is, of course, social media--FaceBook, YouTube, and Twitter.

Originally the focus of the profiles was to be those 18+, but as of yesterday that's been changed to 14+.

When you go to to enter/finish your profile (up to 2500 words), "screeners" will go over it to make sure that you don't put in personally-identifiable information like last name, geographic area, kids' names, etc. [Several members of my ward said during the comment period that they'd had technical difficulties, and couldn't figure out how to satisfy the screeners' requests and have their profiles accepted.] People can search for profiles by inputting first name, ethnicity, location, etc.

We can go to [] to learn more.

Our ward is going to order cards for members to distribute, and it was suggested that we could write down our facebook page or url on them if we wanted.

One friend, who is one of the church's Arizona spokespersons, said that to her the real desire of the program is to show that our positive behaviors are related to our desire to follow Jesus Christ. For example, lots of folks think mormons are "nice," and the church would like to tie that to living a belief system.


I decided not to share my concerns about profile ownership during the public meeting, but afterward shared with the bishop and one of his counselors (I told them that this was a "dealbreaker" for me). My point to them was that not being able to own your profile or remove it would be confirmatory of the perception of the church as controlling and pushy. They agreed that this was a problematic issue, and told me that they would share the feedback/try to get clarification.

Frankly, I can see that being able to say that I'm what would be termed a "liberal mormon" and that to me it's tied to living my belief system would be refreshing!!--but who knows if it would pass the screeners.

P.S. My visiting teachers came just as I was finishing this, and we had quite a lively discussion. One was in primary today and missed the presentation, but she expressed reservations about participating. The other was even more vocal about not wanting to be "out there." She is very much in the pocket and wants to be a team player, but was bothered both by the expectation that 100% of us participate in the mormon.orginitiative, and by what she feels is a threat to her privacy. The plot thickens!

1 comment:

Jessica said...

You made me curious enough to go search for the term "democrat", and a whole page full of profile pictures came up. Same for "liberal". Some folks even owned up to being gay. My guess is, if you keep the tone upbeat and the vocabulary orthodox, you can lay claim to your affiliations and tendencies without incurring the screeners' ire.
With regard to the profile ownership issue, I have no solution for you.