The United Methodist Association of Communicators hosted a “shop talk” with United Methodist Communications during its March 2018 gathering in Philadelphia, a time for the denomination’s communication agency to share news and new initiatives.

Chief Communications Officer Jennifer Rodia shared that UMCOM is committed to being a global communications agency serving the communications needs of the church at all levels. UMCOM has restructured to allow for the hiring of more staff with different language skills representing a wider cultural context and has integrated them into teams throughout the organization. A local church team has also been established to help resource communicators in the local church.

UMCOM has developed a communications plan that will be shared with conference communicators to best align messages and avoid duplication of effort. It has also developed a content calendar arranged by audience (leader, member, seeker, news) to which communicators will be given access.

A new development for 2018 is the launch and relaunch of UMCOM web properties on a new content management system. An independent news site will be the first to roll out, followed by a new site, EquipUMC.org, which will be a hub for leaders to pull together church leader resources into one searchable space. Finally, later in the year, the newly rebuilt umc.org will relaunch on the enhanced platform and will contain a portal for the seeker audience.

United Methodist News Service
Staff with United Methodist News Service voiced appreciation for the communicators, noting that those in attendance collectively share the ministry of news and storytelling. Objective news coverage is critically needed at this moment in the denomination’s history.

Vicki Brown, news editor of United Methodist New Service, encouraged conference communicators to continuing sharing their stories and information. “UMNS could not cover the church without your help,” she said.

In addition to correspondents, UMNS is always looking for people who can write commentaries. Topics include timely issues facing the church as well as theological perspectives around subjects such as baptism and John Wesley’s teachings.

Brown invited feedback on UMNS processes for working together and said she will change the biweekly email about what UMNS is doing to Mondays. Please contact Brown, vbrown@umcom.org, to get on the biweekly email and Linda Bloom, lbloom@umcom.org, to get on the monthly email.

As United Methodist Communications becomes a globally focused agency, the news service and InfoServ are increasing engagement with audiences in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Korean. UMNS is seeking a director of Asian news and also wants to connect with writers, photographers and videographers. Suggestions of people who can produce Native American news content is also welcome. Please contact Tim Tanton, ttanton@umcom.org, with suggestions or for more information.

The new UMNS website will debut in April, with a portal page with space for at least 30 pieces of content. This will create new opportunities for lifting up stories from annual conferences and general agencies. In addition to breaking news and features, the site will highlight multimedia packages, commentaries, photo essays and the “Ask The UMC” series. Site users will be able to choose their region and language preferences.

The church has much work to do in terms of serving a multicultural society. The percentage of non-white U.S. members remains in the low single digits, virtually unchanged since the denomination’s formation in 1968. The news service and UMCOM want to lift up stories and partner with communicators in engaging Hispanic/Latino, Asian and Pacific Islander, African-American and other constituencies. Please be in touch with Gustavo Vasquez, gvasquez@umcom.org, if you have story ideas or need more information.

Though UMCOM will not hold a regular pre-General Conference briefing for delegates and communicators before the 2019 called special session, but we are interested in developing a resource, such as a webinar, specifically for communicators. The briefings will resume in 2020, with a Jan. 23-24 event in Nashville, Tennessee.