Some of the accomplishments are evident within statistics: 130 assembly-related stories published online; 20,000 website visitors daily during the assembly; 14,000 photos uploaded to the WCC photo gallery; many hours of online streaming; and a continued increase in social media interaction.
The communications team leaders also cited more intangible accomplishments: those related to the joy and satisfaction of successfully communicating many messages—sometimes very quickly.
The WCC assembly communications team included 140 co-opted staff, with 24 team leaders under the direction of WCC director of Communication Marianne Ejdersten. The team also included 50 young and 50 senior communicators, photographers, interpreters, translators and stewards. The young communicators had completed an online course for 12 weeks covering ecumenical and peace communication.
Emil Engeset, from the Church of Norway, was part of a team that organized daily press conferences and other media events at the assembly. “Working in a large communications team like this, you never know how it’s going to turn out when you first start,” he said. “But great leadership and planning really just made it work.”
From onsite communicators to those who supported remotely from many countries, the teams genuinely supported each other, Engeset added. “You could talk about your ideas, and quickly see them come to fruition,” he said. “It was just a joy working together—a lot of great moments to share. I mean, it was high stress but it was fun, too, looking back at it.”
The communications strategy for the assembly acknowledged that not only is the assembly the highest decision-making body of the WCC—but also a major communication opportunity and challenge.
Prof. Riccardo Burigana, director of the Centre for Ecumenical Studies in Italy, who was part of a team coordinating WCC publications in the Networking Zone, said he received during the assembly many comments and questions from his friends.
“They wrote me and sometimes they called me to inform me they were able to find out, especially in English, a lot of very interesting news about the real topics—the real, very important, and meaningful topics of the assembly,” he said. “Sometimes, they told me they compared what they were told in television with the news from the assembly, and they found the kind of news from the assembly very clear, and very usable for understanding how many topics we were debating during the assembly.”
In addition to traditional methods of communication, the communication team endeavoured to explore creative storytelling methods to carry specific messages.
Rev. Jane Stranz served as an assembly communicator in both the online and onsite press rooms, which worked with more than 360 media representatives.
“It was a new thing to have an online press center,” she said. “I really, really enjoyed doing it and learned a lot but I was conscious of being within the physical press center at the same time.
“There’s a real place for trying to bring those two experiences together in any kind of ecumenical operation—even with all the challenges involved,” Stranz said. “I think it could be quite exciting for the future.”
Communications planning involved not only honing messages but also proactively seeking events that were likely to attract media. The executive committee approved the communication strategy for the WCC 11th assembly in 2019.
Susan Kim, who was part of a team that helped organize coverage of the assembly’s business plenaries, said she was most grateful for the opportunity to produce breaking news in the form of prophetic communication. “With a global team of communicators who had not only great skill but a heart for ecumenism, justice, and peace, we had an experience that we will all remember forever,” she said. “Every story we covered—and every voice within each story—became part of a larger message of hope that the assembly sent to the world.”
"Journalists reflect on telling the stories of the WCC 11th Assembly" - WCC news release 23 September 2022
"World’s churches converge on Germany city of Karlsruhe to pray and act" - WCC news release 16 September 2022