a jesuit approach to digital stories

Leopold Stuebner SJ

When helpers need help

Ebola is a national crisis. It is also a vital PR crisis for Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. Now they finally realized that they need help and hired a PR-firm to communicate their angle on the issue.

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas is the center of a crisis. The hospital that took care of the nation's first Ebola case is facing a new challenge: They have to work hard in order to restore trust that was lost during the handling of Ebola situation. The Dallas hospital made mistakes, but not responding to press inquiries and accusations made it worse.

Hiding behind a facade: Texas Health during the Ebola communications lock down(AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

With PR-firm Burson-Marsteller Texas Health hired a company that has a track record in helping crisis-ridden health care institutions. And it seems they have good advice for the hospital. 

The most important step was to break the silence. They released a video news release that provided insight footage for the first time and earned a lot of coverage. 

Another step is even more noticeable: they replaced facades with faces. On a dedicated website nurses and physicians share their perspective on the Ebola crises and also their passion to serve the community.

Gathering around #synod14

Over 230 bishops are gathered at the Vatican for a two-week assembly on family issues. As millions of Catholics around the globe follow their discussion on twitter the Holy See Press Office gets excited about social media.

A lot has changed in Rome since Jesuit Jorge Maria Bergoglio was elected to be Pope Francis. While the reorganization of the Vatican's news outlets is still under way, the Roman Bishops Synod sheds some light on what to expect.

Pope Francis' twitter account is ranked #336 worldwide

Francis predecessor Pope Benedict XVI started the papal twitter channel that is now one of the Global Top twitter accounts. But most other Vatican twitter feeds have only a few hundred followers.

Now the interest in the highly debatable Catholic teaching on family and sexuality leads to a solid growth of followers for the @HolySeePress channel. The Holy See Press Office shares daily briefings, photos and comments on the progress of the synod. 

the majority of reach is generated by shared media

But the true success lies not just in gaining a few thousand followers but in the tremendous reach that is generated through re-tweets. While only 7,500 users follow @HolySeePress directly, their tweets are seen by up to 1,3 million twitter users.

Interest in #synod14 by location
The Vatican seems to do fine in terms of reaching out to their target audience: The analytics of the users location matches almost perfectly the map of countries with strong catholic communities (e.g. Philippines, US/Canada, Europe).

One of the main themes of Francis' papacy is compassionate openness. The synod and it's efforts to reach out to people throughout the world via social media seem to mirror this principal theme.

What's wrong with Google News?

Google News trades news articles for traffic to publishers websites. But with doing so, they might damage the idea of journalism severely.

Google News started as a little side project by Google research scientist Krishna Bharat. Today the automated news aggregator has over 1 Billion weekly users. With being the most important referrer of website visitor for many news sites, a high ranking on Google News became business critical.

Website Traffic originating from Search Engines is critical for news sites

Google's business idea seems to be efficient and mutual beneficially. Publishers submit their news content to the algorithm for free and get free visitors in return. It's a simple equation: higher rank on Google News = website = higher ad revenue.

And since it is so important to get articels top ranked by Google's news service, the company decided to teach journalists how to optimize their articles for the search engine.

Key part of this process is analyzing how the target audience searches for news. With Google Trends you can get an insight on popular queries and trending topics.

But this is where the vicious circle starts. Google encourages journalists to write about something that is already popular. And even if you consider only the wording and popular phrases from trending searches you end up with and perverted situation: Google tells journalists how to please their product instead of building a product that actually finds important and trending news stories. 

The result is a filter bubble that not just afflicts individual users but our society as a whole.  And because news corporations are somewhat depended on traffic generated through Google News, it's a thread to the democratic quality of journalism. 

It is worth to look deeper into this issue and a true philosophical examination of this issue is might help to describe the problem in order to work on a solution.

Apple broke the silence, at least a litte

At it's September 2014 Special Event Apple unveiled not just new products, the company also transformed its approach to product launches.

Apple's product launches are a master pice of PR. They really know how to get the buzz going.

For 2 days Apple dedicated it's entire homepage to a giant count down toward the so called Special Event

Even the big newspapers and major TV networks provide coverage for Apples events. Their reporting is earned advertisement space worth millions.

How is Apple able to achieve that? Their main secret is pretty simple: remain silent. This applies not only to the famous secrecy about unveiled products, but also to their social media activities.

Social Media seems not to be a part of Apple's DNA.

Their attempt to establish iTunes Ping as a music centered social network failed miserably and is justifiably almost forgotten. And until today the company does not utilize any of the social media channels for its corporate communication. The iTunes Store on Facebook and the twitter profiles of some of the top level executives are rare exception to that rule.

The social media absence by apple is happily filled by a number of third parties. News blogs and forums that discuss rumors and announcements are a vital part of the Apple culture. Sites like 9to5mac and macrumors.com report everything apple. Those sites regular crash around product announcements due to the extrem high traffic volume generated by curious Apple customers.

Getting Back Behind the Wheel.

With its September 2014 product announcement Apple surprised many observers. The company accompanied the live feed broadcasting the keynote with a thoughtfully crafted live blog. This second live information source provided high polished products photos and touted features and specifications. But also tweets from celebrities, who shared their excitement about the unveiled products, where featured during the presentation.

Apple Keynote Live Blog: Photos, Features and Tweets

Obviously Apple is seeking a more active role in the social media coverage of its products and services. And it seems as Apple knows once more what the crowd wants: Their combined PR-Stunt with U2 went trending on facebook and twitter on day one.

DIE ZEIT / Christ & Welt

DIE ZEIT reports in its issue of 06/13/13 about the situation of detainees in German detention camps. The piece portraits Br. Dieter Müller SJ and his work with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Munich. Coverage by a national Newspaper is a great support for mission of JRS and I'm grateful that I was able to support it with my photos. 

iPater.com now powered by KOKEN


iPater.com is now online for almost 6 years. In this years it has undergone several facelifts. But not only the front end changed heavily, also the tools powering the site alternated a lot. Several systems, frameworks and programming languages did their job, each with advantages and disadvantages.

My current love is KOKEN  a photo-centric CMS that offers a powerful templating engine with an awesome ease of use.