I have to give the folks at the Vatican credit…they really know how to use the media!
When I first heard that white smoke was pouring out of the Sistine Chapel chimney, I immediately flipped on the broadcast of the breaking news from Rome (I actually checked out TV, radio and online coverage). Along with billions of others around the globe, I anxiously waited for the announcement of which cardinal had been chosen pope. And waited. And waited. And as all of us waited (and news people struggled to fill the time), we were treated to chanting crowds, beautiful music and exquisite pageantry. Throughout the more than one-hour wait, the excitement built to a fever pitch. The Wall Street Journal quoted someone in the square who compared the atmosphere to a U2 concert. It was a fantastically-positive display for the Roman Catholic Church, orchestrated perfectly by the Vatican.
Now obviously, the choosing of a pope has the weight of a huge historic event and major news story behind it, but still the Vatican got every ounce of good media coverage out of it. That’s because the curiae understands the value of that coverage and had clearly prepared meticulously for this event.
I have often discussed in these blogs the importance of preparation in order to take advantage of your media opportunities. That’s especially true when, unlike the Vatican, you don’t know when those opportunities will present themselves. It’s very easy to miss a great chance at “getting noticed” if you aren’t ready for it. And as we’ve seen from the Vatican, the more you understand about the message you hope to send, the more effective your messaging will be.
Pope Francis seems to be solidly tuned in to the Vatican’s messaging effort. His greeting of the crowd and early comments have gotten a very positive response…and positive media coverage. He has used his big media opportunity to make a solid first impression. I suspect that was just the beginning of what we will see in the future.
So for some excellent examples of how to build your media strategy, keep an eye on Rome. Like the faithful who walked out of St. Peter’s Square uplifted, you, too, may come away with your own special gift from the Holy See.