Monday, 31 December 2012

A Pastoral letter is the same as an Annual Report

Back in the dim and dark depths of the 1970s, someone or some organisation (please don't ask me to verify it, it was pre the computing age) carried out some research into the marketing elements of  Annual Reports.

Vast sums of money are spent each year by the multi national companies (and by Colleges and Universities) in producing glossy and colourful Annual Reports.

The research showed that the recipient of such a report (postage was another considerable on-cost) took something like 3.5 seconds upon opening the postal envelope and to then make the decision whether to read or not.

Mostly, when the 3.5 seconds was up, the 300 page glossy would be consigned to the round file conveniently placed beneath the desk.

The message being, of course, that you needed to be pdq at getting your message across; it had to be precise and visually gripping.

The human attention span is not a long one. If you are on the receiving end of an Annual Report it is a mere fraction of time betwixt determining success or failure.

I think that it is probably much the same with a Pastoral Letter. How many are actually read?

And, if the letter is read out aloud at Mass, how many switch off after 45 seconds (the average concentration span for the reception of oral communications).

And why do people switch off? Because, invariably,  the message is parcelled up in unimaginative, boring sentences.

Because the letters are too long; and the content too ambivalent.

I am not going to go through the various pastoral letters issued on the same-sex "marriage" issue, that would be tedious.

But here are the main points that should be addressed:-

1. Keep it to one A4 page

2. Encapsulate the message in the first concise sentence eg "I am asking for your support in upholding the teachings of Holy Mother Church by opposing the Government's plans to introduce same sex "marriage."

3. Keep the wording simple; that is not to say that the audience is cerebrally challenged, it is just that the message gets through faster and remains if it is straightforward.

4. Have short, clearly defined requests (preferably a bit more than "write to your MP")

5. Leave the recipient with a final sentence that contains an action request ("Join the March in London on X date").

That's it really. It's not rocket science but, if you should wish to verify that this post is necessary, please go to the pastoral letter issued on the Feast of the Holy Family in 2011 by Bishop John Rawsthorne of Hallam Diocese. It is not on the SSM issue but it warbles on blindly oblivious to the fact that, if the Diocese did research its impact, they might be surprised to find that yawning came top of the list. It is, in reality, an annual report in pastoral letter format.
You may read it HERE

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