ESC Communicators Submit Social Media Guidelines Draft

HNP Communications Franciscan World

CHICAGO — Those responsible for communications in the English-speaking Conference of the OFM provinces have prepared for the provincial ministers a draft of a text of guidelines for the friars’ use of social media.

Titled “Preach the Gospel at All Times,” the text is meant to help friars effectively use social media like Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and YouTube.

At their annual meeting, held last month at St. Peter’s Church-in-the-Loop in Chicago, the ESC Communicators finalized the document first drafted in 2011. It will now be remanded to the provincial ministers for their approval and distribution as an official text of the English-speaking Conference of the Order of Friars Minor.

Social Media Guidelines
The document’s introduction states: “Social media offers a powerful way to spread the Franciscan gospel message, and it provides friars and partners-in-ministry with a way to exchange information and ideas. … [T]he Internet provides those who serve the Gospel with a creative opportunity to share the Word in imaginative, immediate, and engaging ways.”

The guidelines, for example, speak of the content and the use of social media for ministry, especially in regard to receiving permission to share contact information of friars and to post photographs (especially of children for whom written permissions of parents/guardians are legally required in every circumstance).

At their 2012 meeting, Chris Meyer, OFM, of St. John the Baptist Province — IT specialist, broadcast engineer, and webmaster for Catholic Theological Union — spoke to the ESC Communicators about digital communications.

He described social media as a function of evangelization and as a way to connect people with each other in a dynamic, experiential way. His presentation covered social media’s current application and effectiveness, and its future possibilities.

Past Projects and Future Ideas
The ESC Communicators began their meeting with a report of the communication efforts in each of the six provinces represented.  The descriptions included information about the varied ways in which internal and external communications are managed.  The focus of the work of each person in charge of communications at the provinces ranges from newsletters to magazines to Internet management.

Looking toward future concerns, the participants listed the possibility of an ESC website through which job openings and searches could be posted, one communications office for all of the provinces of the English-speaking Conference, and a set of guidelines for crisis communications in the provinces.

This is the sixth time that the ESC Communicators have met. Their next meeting is planned for September 2013 in San Antonio, Texas.

— Fr. Benet, a member of Sacred Heart Province, is chair of the ESC Communicators. Jocelyn Thomas, director of communications for Holy Name Province, is secretary of the group.