s the official voice of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the General Conference (GC) Communication Department has, over the past five years, offered the denomination public relations services, news, training, and advocacy for projects designed to spread the gospel. This report shares what we consider our successes, our challenges, and our vision for the future. It is vital that we work together to promote a consistent high-quality message to the public of all language groups that will strengthen the church’s mission of telling people about Jesus’ second coming.
GC Communication promoted the church’s focus on revival and reformation throughout its media channels—from the Revived by His Word Bible reading plan and Mission to the Cities initiative to the 777-prayer campaign and the United in Prayer programs. The Communication Department also unveiled the blog Presidential Perspectives, offering members the chance to hear directly from Adventist Church president Ted N. C. Wilson.
The year 2013 saw the unveiling of the new Adventist.org Web site, a collaborative effort between the world headquarters Communication Department and Office of Global Software and Internet, as well as the Inter-European Division and Stimme der Hoffnung. With the support of departments and ministries of the church, the objectives of the new site were to provide not just a visual revamp, but an expression of the work of the church with seekers in mind. The site also provides a framework for the brand and voice of the church that can be replicated by all administrative levels: divisions, unions, conferences, as well as local churches.
In 2011 the Communication Department added ANN Video, a half-hour news and ministry program that airs on the Adventist.org Web site, as well as on Hope Channel and other Web sites and TV stations worldwide. Producers have delivered nearly 200 original shows.
ANN Video is produced in the Communication Department’s studio, which was built in 2011. The communication team produces video projects for other General Conference departments, in addition to creating original, inspirational video shorts.
The department also increased its social media reach by utilizing two-way communication via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Many of the church’s services and projects are seen by members and the public through these channels.
The department promotes numerous outreach projects across these media. Some highlights include:
- The Creation Project. Community members near the world headquarters were invited to a screening of the 27-minute film “Creation: The Earth Is a Witness.” The film has been translated into 15 languages, and has been a key evangelism tool worldwide since 2014.
- The Great Controversy Project. This initiative encouraged the reading of Ellen White’s touchstone title The Great Controversy, and supported the global distribution of the book at an unprecedented scale. The department also sponsored The Great Hope Web site, television commercials, and videos targeting Web distribution.
- Animal Encounters. This TV series—which aired on Hope Channel and is available on animalencounters.tv and vimeo.com/theadventistchurch—highlights a different premise than most nature shows: creation, not evolution.
- Health fairs. The department sponsored the Healthy Taste of the World food fair and the Fun and Fit Health Fair on the GC campus. Each welcomed people in the local community to experience the joy of following God’s instruction regarding physical well-being.
- Pray4togo, a prayer and advocacy campaign for two Adventists unjustly imprisoned in the West African country of Togo.
The department also sponsored five meetings of the Global Adventist Internet Network (GAiN), which promotes new technology for mission and networking among church media and technology professionals. The annual gatherings have been held in several locations worldwide, including Jamaica, Hong Kong, and Dubai. The 2015 GAiN conference was held online, and was viewed on 3,853 screens with participants from 105 countries. For more information, see gain.adventist.org.
Communication Department staff offered design and photography services to other GC departments, while also delivering training workshops on public relations, production, and journalism to global church entities.
The department handled public relations services, including crisis PR during situations when media attention focused on the church.
The department also opened Eden to Eden, an art gallery at the world headquarters highlighting the original Garden of Eden, with works pointing to the future Eden in heaven.
Finally, in 2012 the department celebrated the 100th anniversary of communication as a separate entity at the General Conference. In 1912 church officials hired newspaper reporter Walter Burgan to establish the Press Bureau, precursor to today’s Communication Department.
As we continue to grow as a church, as communicators, and as a department, we face a number of challenges.
Administrators at all levels of the denomination are encouraged to involve the Communication Department in planning at initial stages of a project. The Communication Department is rendered less effective when administrators view it as a “post office” to “send out” their projects.
As former Communication Department director E. W. Tarr wrote in Ministry magazine in 1967: “If public relations is to operate effectively, organizational leadership must be prepared to reveal plans, talk about problems, expound its policies, and familiarize the PR director with its objectives.” His words are just as true today.
He also added, “It is unlikely that [public relations] can be effective if it is called upon only after decisions have been made and policies formulated.”
It’s important for the church to hire experienced public relations professionals, TV producers, and journalists for Communication Departments worldwide. Media-savvy consumers are reached by professional-quality content. Gone are the days when church employees of other professions can simply be retasked for Communication Departments.
We are excited as we look forward to the next five years. We anticipate new initiatives, new challenges, and lots of growth. The future of communication and technology offers new horizons, including:
- More consistent branding, with more consistent use of the church’s official logo and online design framework (available at framework.adventist.org).
- Adventist Communication Training (ACT). An online educational resource to support the development of church communication professionals and ministry support personnel throughout the world.
- Greater distribution of content by prioritizing mobile delivery beyond traditional methods.
- Reaching more people in more languages. While GC Communication has endeavored to offer content in the four languages that serve more than 80 percent of the church—English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese—more beyond our global family have yet to be presented with the gospel, including speakers of Mandarin, Arabic, and other languages spoken in the 10/40 window.
- A media mind-set to encourage church administrators to have a public relations approach in fulfilling their duties. Committing to reporting news quickly will more closely bond our worldwide Adventist family in an era of instant communication.
Together, moving forward with God’s leading, as specialized communication professionals empowered by church leaders to speak with a coordinated voice and consistent brand, we will build upon the accomplishments of the past five years and deliver even greater publicity and interaction to spread the church’s message.