As a new Pope is chosen in the Vatican over the next weeks, one Cardinal who has been embroiled in the sex scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church has taken to social media to try to clear his name.
Cardinal Roger Mahony, who resigned as archbishop of Los Angeles following the release of personnel files documenting priest sexual abuse cases during his tenure, is taking advice from a crisis management firm, writing a blog and tweeting @CardinalMahony his thoughts.
While this is interesting, because it takes guts to put yourself out there, Mahony has yet to respond to any tweets directed at him. Instead he is practicing one-way communication rather than the dialogue that defines a successful online presence. He doesn't allow comments on his blog.
Rather than engaging with the public, he's talking to the public, which is how the church has handled the entire reputation crisis it has faced in the past years.
Rebranding the Catholic Church
When people just create a one-way broadcast stream like Mahony, particularly when the individual is tainted with scandal, it appears defensive even if the motivations aren’t.
The opportunity to elect a new Pope is an excellent opportunity for the church to rebrand. There is an ideal opportunity for a new leader to change people's perception of the institution and to earn back trust.
For centuries, the church has operated using secrecy as a weapon. But in today's always-on, real-time world this approach doesn't work so well.
Besides the new Pope himself, church leaders can truly open up, using tools like blogs and Twitter to engage the public rather than just broadcast to them.