Wednesday, October 20, 2010

DOH! Catholics Deserve Better PR

Newsflash: Homer and Bart Simpson are Catholic, according to the Vatican, yesterday.

Which begs the question, so what?

Media and religion analysts have stated it's an attempt to make Catholicism more relevant. The Vatican's press release further suggested The Simpsons is good family entertainment. And from there it grew even...less relevant.

Sorry, folks (especially Catholic folks) PR should do a lot better than that. Maybe the Vatican needs a refresher course in public relations. A list of do's and don't's or better yet, a "Doh!" list.  Here's mine:

  • The conversation cited as "evidence" Homer and Bart are Catholic occurred in a 2005 episode. 

Doh! Any high school journalism student knows press releases are supposed to be confused with news. (News that's five years old is called recent history.)

  • Homer and Bart talked about religion in general, and broached the subject of converting to Catholicism, but didn't. 

Doh! Jumping to the conclusion that they are now Catholic, based on a single scene in a single episode is called faulty logic. Or unclear evidence. Or a weak argument. Until now I thought the Vatican was really into fact-checking. Didn't it take the Catholic powers-that-be more than a few years to come to the conclusion that yes, in fact, the Holocaust actually happened and was a really, really bad thing?

  • "Few people know it and he does everything to hide it but it is true: Homer J. Simpson is Catholic," according to the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano. 

Doh! Repeat after me: it's OK to lead with a quote, if it's a really good quote. IF we're going to ignore the fact this little gem is five years old, IF we're going to buy the argument that the Simpsons are Catholic, and IF we're going to accept the idea that the Simpsons being Catholic is good or that it matters at all, can we at least get a better quote? IF I were considering converting because Homer and Bart did (if they did) well, sorry L'Osservatore, you lost me at "...he does everything to hide it..."

Hey, I'm all for churches using PR. And I believe (to some extent) that "any publicity is good publicity." Unfortunately, this isn't. It's getting lots of airplay but none that really furthers the faith, good news, thoughtful dialog about religion. In other words, doh!

I'd love to see an effective PR effort  - like (pick a denomination) saying "God said meet me on Facebook!" or something even more relevant. Facebook may have had its 15 minutes...but the Simpsons,  converting to Catholicism? That's so 2005.

Recommended reading: Anything by David Ogilvy, a dead guy who's still relevant, or about him, like this:

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