Communications Policy

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Context

The Church of Ss. Peter and Paul, Leybourne is situated in the Diocese of Rochester within the Church of England. The Sunday congregation amounts to about 172, but the church serves a larger community of 3,218[1]. Overall the parish is within the top 10% of least deprived parishes within the Diocese[2]. The largest demographic within the parish is the 45 to 59 age band. The ethnicity of the parish is mostly British (95%) with most (99%) having English as their main language. Two-thirds of the resident population declare themselves as Christian. Household internet access (UK) stands at 86%, it can be presumed that internet access in Leybourne may be higher dues to the lower levels of deprivation[3].

Access to such a wider range of the population makes our efforts to promote and communicate the Gospel within and beyond our parish boundaries, a viable and worthwhile endeavour.

Until the internet age, such communication depended on faith sharing and witness, preaching, sacramental celebrations and education programmes, and on print media such as the parish magazine. Now, parishioners and other members of the community enjoy access to information from the church through a wide and growing range of electronic and print media including newspapers, magazines, books, weekly bulletins, video, telecommunications, direct mail, radio, television, film, e-mail, the internet, and social networking sites.

To spread the Gospel effectively, and to advertise our activities, we need to welcome the use of this range of media. However, widely accessible communication of this kind is not without its challenges. We need to be proactive: to create well-planned, appropriate and thoughtful links between the message, its intended audience and the means communication, so that the message is most likely to resonate with its intended audience. We also need to be protective: to reduce the problems that arise when ease of computer access leads to unauthorized and inconsistent posting of information, or inconsistency between information on one medium and similar material on another. The rapidly changing nature of communications technology adds to these challenges.

Purpose

A policy is a statement that defines the authority required, boundaries set, responsibilities delegated, and guidelines established to carry out a function of the church. In other words, policies are "what" the organisation does or who does the task, why it is done, and, under what conditions it is done. Policies answer questions that arise during unique circumstances.

Policies provide uniform treatment of a situation, thus achieving continuity of operation. Policies take personalities out of the picture. Decisions are based on the church policy not on the individual, and each situation is treated the same

The objective of the policy is to ensure that there is a consistent approach to all messages across a variety of media. This will ensure that there is a single approach to reaching out to those within the Church family and the wider population.

This policy has been designed:

  • to guide, support and protect those who take on responsibility for external communications,
  • to help others in the church community to understand what can reasonably be asked of these communications personnel,
  • to protect the integrity and unique style of the church’s information
  • to maximise our use of best practice in our external communications.
  • to minimise the risk to the reputation of the church that can be caused by improper and unauthorised external communications.

Benefits

The Policy will reduce the time taken to compose items and allow them to be distributed across print media, email messaging and social media. Print media includes web pages, posters, flyers, magazines and orders of service. Social media includes FaceBook and Twitter. The church does not use other social media sites.

Principles

  • The overriding principle will be taken from John 13:34 – ‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another’. There must never be criticism of another person, community, belief or faith.
  • The purpose of church communications is to relay information about the Gospel and about our parish to a broad, or to a specific, audience.
  • The parish priest and churchwardens have sole responsibility for editorial policies governing church communications.
  • Church communications may not be used for partisan political messages.
  • Church messaging must be lawful, ethical and morally justified.
  • Church communications may not be used for paid advertising, unless this use has been authorised by the parish priest.
  • The parish priest, or in their absence, the Church wardens, may instigate, or respond to request for, communications with the broadcast media or press on behalf of the parish.
  • The parish priest or churchwardens may authorise the parish’s appointed communication officer, other communications personnel and/or parish staff to act on their behalf whenever required.
  • All of the Church social media sites will make it clear that, by posting a comment to that site, users give the Church irrevocable permission to exercise all rights with respect to the content provided. This includes removing the posted material, or using it for any purpose in any form and on any media, including but not limited to: displaying, modifying, reproducing or distributing it, creating other works from it, and publishing it.
  • Images published will be stripped of any geo-tag information.
  • Email circulations will be sent using the BCC line (Blind Carbon Copy) to protect the privacy of the recipient.
  • All Church communications will make it clear that if individuals under 18 years of age, fill out any Consent Submission Forms, send us an e-mail message and/or use any service on our social media sites which will require them to provide personal information, then they must demonstrate that they have the permission of their parent or guardian.
  • At church events, if photographs or videos are being taken by communications personnel, this will be made clear to participants. Such photos or videos would normally be made available for use in church communications. If an individual or family member wishes that such photos or videos in which they or their relatives are prominently displayed should not be used, they should complete a Media Policy Opt-Out Form that is available online or from the incumbent. This will be used to direct communications personnel not to use such photos or videos. Similarly, the Media Policy Opt-Out Form can be used to instruct the church not to use an individual’s name in communications.

Responsibilities

Parish Priest

  • Responsible for all messaging and its content.
  • Will comply with the Principles.
  • Has responsibility for editorial policies governing church communications.
  • May instigate or reply to or respond to requests for communications with the broadcast media or press on behalf of the parish.
  • May authorise the publication of articles provided that they are consistent with the Principles.
  • Must authorise content that is paid for advertising.
  • The Parish Priest may delegate authority to others to provide administrative support in email circulation or the composition of articles, posters, flyers and magazines.

Churchwardens

  • Will comply with the Principles.
  • May instigate or reply to or respond to requests for communications with the broadcast media or press on behalf of the parish in the absence of the parish priest.
  • May authorise the publication of articles provided that they are consistent with the Principles.
  • Have responsibility for editorial policies governing church communications
  • May authorise the parish’s appointed communication officer, other communications personnel and/or parish staff to act on their behalf whenever required.

Parish Administrator

  • Will comply with the Principles.
  • Will maintain the contact list for the parish. The contact list will contain the postal addresses and email addresses for the congregation and other associated contacts.
  • Will circulate messages from the parish priest, church wardens and others, provided that they comply with the Principles.

Web Manager (currently the Parish Administrator)

  • Will comply with the Principles
  • Will maintain the internet web pages for the parish and make such changes as are requested by the parish priest and churchwardens.

Leybourne Voice Team

  • Will comply with the Principles.
  • Will submit proposed content to the parish priest or churchwardens for approval prior to print or web publication.

Twitter Manager, Facebook Manager

  • Will comply with the Principles.
  • Will manage the ‘Followed’ list to ensure that content complies with the Principles.

Parochial Church Council

  • Will review the Policy annually.
  • Will amend and re-publish the policy following any changes in the annual review.
  • Will circulate the policy to post holders and maintain the signed acknowledgements.

Related Documents

Parish Media Opt-In Policy


[2] Getting to know your Parish, Diocese of Rochester

http://www.rochester.anglican.org/content/pages/documents/1431170508.pdf