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RCC handbook assists faith communicators

8/2/2004

By Nancye Willis*

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)--A new edition of a handbook for all faith communities, produced by the Religion Communicators Council (RCC), will be available in September.

The seventh edition of the organization's resource, Speaking of Faith: The Essential Handbook for Religious Communicators is a 155-page, softbound book covering issues ranging from establishing a strategic communications plan to crisis communication.

United Methodists who wrote sections of the handbook include M. Garlinda Burton, the Rev. Daniel R. Gangler, Bret Haines and Kimberly Pace. The Rev. J. Richard Peck, a United Methodist Publishing House retiree who also serves as communications officer for United Methodist Men, was editor. RCC's executive director, Shirley Struchen, a United Methodist, helped in the planning, review and production of the new edition.

Divided into three sections, the handbook is aimed at helping communicators at all levels of the church meet the challenge of communicating religion through varied forms of media.

The section on "Communication: What's All the Fuss?" begins with an exploration of discovering the mission of a faith group, identifying communications needs, developing a strategic communications plan, and maintaining a constant evaluation process.

According to Pace, the author and chief communications officer for the United Methodist Board of Discipleship, Nashville, Tenn. "A communications plan that gets awareness, but fails to stimulate some action, is probably not successful."

Chapter 2, by Burton, top executive, United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women, stresses the importance of the personal touch in effective communication, no matter the medium. "At its best," she writes, "communication implies a two-way exchange."

The second section, "If I Had a Hammer: The Tools of Communicating," covers ways to communicate-with secular journalists, through graphic design and photography, and in print resources. Haines, a graphic designer who served 17 years as art director for the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry, concludes Chapter 5 with: "In a day and age when your audience-and especially the youth-are visually savvy, it is important to keep your publications visually interesting."

The final section, "We've Got the Whole World in Our Hands: Communicating in the Larger Community," deals with crisis communications, interfaith America, copyrights and other ethical issues, and a look at the future of communications.  In Chapter 13, "We've Got a Situation Here," Gangler, director of communications for the denomination's Indiana Area, offers advice for dealing with crisis communications. In the event of a true crisis, Gangler writes, "an organization's managers, legal consultants and communicators must work together in a coordinated and integrated way" to ensure "minimum damage to the organization and its values."

The handbook also includes an introduction by Diana L. Eck, professor of comparative religion and Indian studies at Harvard University; a CD with printable samples, worksheets and training materials; and bibliographies of additional resources.

RCC, a nonprofit organization created to serve the religious community, was founded in 1929 as the Religious Publicity Council. It later was known as the Religious Public Relations Council, which opened its membership to people of all faiths in 1970. More information about the organization is available at its Web site www.religioncommunicators.org

The RCC handbook can be ordered in care of UMR Communications, Inc., 2400 Lone Star Drive, Dallas, TX 75212. The cost is $19.95 plus $6 for shipping and handling. Checks should be made payable to RCC handbook.

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*Willis is editor of Public Information at United Methodist Communications.

 

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