DIREZIONE GENERALE OPERE DON BOSCO
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Understanding what it is
135 years old, the Salesian Bulletin has preserved an amazing vitality. This is all due to the one who invented it, someone with an astonishing, clear view of the future.
Don Bosco was a born communicator. Of his very nature he was irrepressible. He adjusted himself via communication, became more up-to-date in his ideas, invented ways to teach. He showed that he had understood industrial civilization, which he was an enemy of in principle. And like all great communicators, he experienced fear but also made others fearful. That same effect continues, 125 years later.
In order to study the relationship between Don Bosco and media we need to start from: the moderate churchman (apparently), then the magician and gymnast, the priest who organized kids making them roar with delight, someone who founded schools and publications, organized concerts...
And then his masterpiece of communication: his reinvention of the oratory, just to suit the industrial city - an integrated system of school and work, free time and religion: "The perfect machine whereby every communication channel, from games to music, theater to press is managed lightly, re-used and discussed whenever communication arrives from outside" (Umberto Eco).
The general thrust of most recent discussions on Don Bosco have pointed out what was ancient and new, clever or puzzling or rather, as it might seem two centuries later, contradictory about the individual who founded the Salesians,
It all begins with a broadsheet with the unlikely title Bibliofilo Cattolico, (the Catholic Book-lover)which he changed then to Bollettino Salesiano.
This word bollettino, according to the dictionary, means "an official publication saying something of a public nature".
It has noble origins. The word comes from “bolla” the seal or stamp used for public writings and solemn kinds of documents. Papal Bulls - if that helps. It is still employed today for practical purposes: medical bulletins, war bulletins.
It points to something practical in style, without too many frills, managerial in nature. This is why Don Bosco liked it.
"Since I cannot visit you in person…" these words or something similar were written by Don Bosco in his circular about spreading good books, and recall St Paul's letters. It tells us something particular about Don Bosco and his system: be there, be present, stay with.
Don Bosco was a genius of convivial conversation, the word. Cardinals in Rome were very much aware of this in 1858: "Caught up in conversation one evening (we are not sure if it was with Card. Gaude or Card. Altieri), and with other prelates as well, His Eminence said: “Don Bosco, preach to us like you usually do for your boys”.
"But", asked Don Bosco, "how am I supposed to do that? Do I have to do it while I am talking to Your Eminence and these other Reverend gentlemen?"
"Yes, something along those lines".
"But don't you think it would be better if they were preaching to me and I was the one listening?"
"No, no", the Cardinal added, "preach to us just as if we were your boys".
And Don Bosco calmly began: Me cari fieui, and he continued on for a while giving them a bit of Church history in Piedmontese, interspersing his talk with lively exchanges, proverbs, advice, warnings, promises, questions and exhortations for his listeners. and given things they understood and some they did not, they began to laugh, until the Cardinal, doubled up with laughter, interrupted him and barely managed to say: “That's enough! That'll do!”. However at the same time they had all come to understand the marvellous power of Don Bosco's words to his boys" (Memorie Biografiche V, 892).
At the basis of the Salesian adventure there is Don Bosco's instinct as a communicator. His "shrewd smile". His almost magical perception of others: "He was still very young and he was studying my friends' characters. And looking at one straight in the face he could work out what plans were in his heart. And this is why my friends both loved him a lot but also feared him". Even he said as much when he was ten years old. And it happened that way throughout his life. And, it would seem, it is still happening. So - this shrewd smile, and a perceptive eye.
And thirdly the word: "What made them gather around me and wildly attracted them, were the stories". A word that would become powerful and bring about concrete effects even before being uttered: "One day a policeman exclaimed, seeing me get silence amongst four hundred boys with a mere wave of the hand (and these were boys who had been jumping and shouting out in the paddock): if this priest were a General, he could fight the most powerful army in the world".
At the origins of the power of the word, something decisive for Don Bosco as a communicator, there is something more basic than just the content of the word. The message comes later: in the beginning there is the marvel of a word that the other notes as immediately addressed to himself. Testimonies concerning this magic of the personalized word that follows on from the magic of the knowing look, are considerable in number.
"Having got to the refectory, if the others had already finished, he had something to eat, surrounded by the boys who happened to be there. They gathered round him so that he had no time to breathe almost, and was deafened by the noise, in the midst of a cloud of dust and surroundings that wouldn't have been so pleasant on the nose, but he was so happy since he was not looking for any comfort for himself but to be of advantage to his children". (Memorie Biografiche IV, 189)
Pope Ratti, the Pontiff who canonized Don Bosco and in autumn 1883 had been his guest in the Pinardi House, recalled: "Here he was, talking to everyone: and he had just the right word for each, something really amazing: at first we were surprised and then we were just left to wonder".
Some things are already a message on the way and Don Bosco made a life proposal out of them: "Good Father Guala and Father Cafasso willingly gave me books, medals, little crosses to give out. Sometimes they gave me material to clothe the more needy ones, and feed others with bread for several weeks".
Don Bosco never stopped communicating. He did not theorize, and had no plan other than feeling the urgency to evangelize along with his communicator's instinct.
Perhaps Don Bosco followed just a single rule in shifting from ways of providing support to ways of communicating: "Abandon classical style, speak in the common language where possible, or also in Italian, but in popular, popular, popular style". and out of that rule came newspapers, books "for putting into the hands of ordinary folk". The "broadsheets" called Reminders for Catholics. The small work with the title Advice for Catholics. And then the Catholic Readings which began in 1853 and aimed to be "books for the people", in "simple style, popular language". Even those opposed to him recognized the "great gift" of "getting the people to read and understand you".
The first official number of the Salesian Bulletin opens with a letter from Don Bosco:
To the Salesian Cooperators. Our Regulations, my good and deserving Cooperators, prescribe a monthly Bulletin that would be published in due course to keep you informed of things that have been done or are yet to be done to obtain the aims we have agreed to achieve. We are now fulfilling a common desire, so that everyone can carry out his work in unity of spirit and unanimously direct our efforts to a single purpose: The glory of God, the good of Civil society.
To this end we judge that a Bulletin will help you, one that has been printed now for some years in our print-shop in Turin and which will be printed in future from the St. Vincent's Refuge in Sampierdarena. This Bulletin will tell you about:
1. Things that members or their Directors choose to offer for the general and particular good of associates who follow the practical rules of the Cooperators.
2. Expounding facts that are fruitful for members and can serve as an example for others. So, things that have happened, or we've heard about or read: so long as they are linked to the good of humanity and religion; news and letters from Missionaries working for the faith in Asia, Australia and especially those from Salesians spread throughout South America amongst wild tribes: all this is appropriate material for us.
3. Communications, notices of various kinds, works we are proposing; books and maxims which should be spread around, will make up a third of the Bulletin.
Don Bosco wants his friends to still feel part of the family, still breath the air from home, even if by now they find themselves far away.
Don Bosco never excluded anyone. This is why the Bulletin is addressed to all friends of Don Bosco and those who, if they get to know him, would be his friends.
One might think of a series of concentric circles rippling out from the center using the most effective method of all: a "handing on of the word".
Don Bosco made Salesian initiatives known and sought help everywhere. He sent the SB to as many people as possible and, where there was the chance of greater interest, he added in a certificate to be a Salesian Cooperator. The SB was sent out free, and went to the homes of the rich as well as the poor. The rich sent in a consistent supply of offerings which enabled him to send the SB out to the poor and increase the print-run to respectable dimensions.
We are in times where we need to act. The world has become materialistic, therefore we have to work and make known the good that is being done. Even if one performs miracles by staying in his cell and praying day and night, the world takes no notice and no longer believes. The world needs to see and touch. The world today wants to see the clergy work, teach and educate poor and neglected youth with charitable works. And this is the only way to save the young. (Memorie Biografiche XIII, 126-127).
One could say that the SB, the many circular letters sent out... determined how the world discovered Don Bosco, this extraordinary man. Up until 1874 the Salesians were just a regionally-based Congregation. After that date, especially after the 1880s, Don Bosco more frequently took on boys who were recommended by clergy or laity, requests multiplied to open houses in various cities and countries" (Stella, Don Bosco, 1968).
The Bulletin, according to our Father's way of thinking, must be the very effective instrument of the propaganda, which he so much and so often wanted, to carry out the Gospel precept: "Videant opera vestra bona". So let us not overlook this potent means of propaganda, the Bulletin, which has the precise aim of throwing light on and spreading awareness of our works, of the work we do, our efforts, also the heroic efforts of our confreres in the Missions (Ricaldone, ASC no.87, 1938).
It would be well then, entering into those modern perspectives that Don Bosco had in fact anticipated, for us to recognize in the SB that special type of publication that big organizations circulate to create a positive image of themselves in public opinion. We will see the results" (Ricceri, ASC, no. 287, 1977).
The responsibility of the SB to be a "calling card" of the Congregation, involves its content, style and graphics. It is about presenting a dynamically alive Congregation, including through marketing.
It offers the image of a Salesian educative and religious movement, with its own particular approach.
It will provide room for Salesian activities in the world, especially works which represent a service to the young in forward-looking structures and in activities which brings them back into society.
And also being a missionary Congregation, it will be the case that missionaries themselves become "correspondents": whatever is not made known "does not exist". (Cfr. Viganò, AGC 336, 1991, no. 2.)
From the first draft of the Cooperator Regulations: "Each month with a Bulletin or printed sheet, members will be kept informed of things suggested, done or that are proposed for doing” (Memorie Biografiche XI, 538).
According to Don Bosco's insights the Salesian Bulletin is not a simple list of news events, but shows the spirit of the Congregation by telling about deeds and works, more than by spreading speculative ideas. It offers a reading of contemporary reality from a Salesian point of view and accepts the provocations of the world of the young and of the Church in view of more comprehensive educational and pastoral project.
The Salesian Bulletin had as its aim to maintain amongst the members of the Pious Union the greatest possible identity of thought and harmony of action in order to achieve a common aim (Memorie Biografiche XIII, 603).
"It is good that we recognize in the SB a kind of "house organ" (sic) (Ricceri, ASC no.287, 1977).
What Don Bosco wants to give you responds to a concern about uniting Salesians through information on works and activities that the Congregation is carrying out around the world. Success and lack thereof, initiatives and needs, the SB, in Don Bosco's thinking, makes us aware of the life of the Congregation in its joys and sorrows, its triumphs and trials. One understands then how a reading of the SB serves to foster fraternal charity of Salesians and we see a bond of unity rubbed out in the Congregation when the SB is not read or is reduced to a periodical of merely local interest" (Ricceri, ASC no. 258, 1969).
A society's and business's brand is to be safeguarded at all costs. The credit of trust that the “Don Bosco” and “Salesian” brand have in the world today is one of our greatest strengths.
Loyalty is, amongst everything else, a less fashionable quality. There's not so much research on this in general terms, but there is plenty of research on "loyalty to the brand", a phenomenon that symbolizes our times.
Loyalty to a brand is the phenomenon by which the consumer tends to always use a product by the same brand. The word 'loyalty' is fully justified, because there is often an emotional relationship with the product. We all know people who speak movingly of their camera, or light up when you mention the brand of car they drive, or are enthusiastic about clothing of a certain brand. A brand brings together a whole lot of memories and experiences, a way of being, a style, and it is much more important than the quality of the product.
Not only. A brand has the magical property of containing within itself faculties and powers that every one of us wants to have: buy these shoes and you'll have winged feet; acquire this bottle of liquor and you'll immediately be seen as part of the aristocracy; use this perfume and you'll have the beauty of the gods. It is easy to understand that whoever has to sell a product will try out every way of ensuring our fidelity and so is ready to promise anything so we will buy it. The consumer has to continue giving money to him and not to the opposition. And the longer this bond with the consumer lasts, the more it is strengthened. It begins very early in the piece: loyalty to the brand can be aroused even in childhood so that it remains a constant over the years to come.
Loyalty to the brand is anything but a superficial thing. I am convinced that it is based on our desperate need to have trust in someone or something, to love and to be loved, to have stability, protection, a place to belong, meaning. We have a great need to be loyal.
But why this great need for loyalty? The answer is simple: because continuity and stability of relationships has become a rare item. We live in the Era of Distraction which is also the Era of Interruption, where we are constantly invited to think of something different from what we are currently thinking. Loyalty is precisely the opposite. It is "staying with". It is not losing the thread of the discussion, not getting distracted.
On 17 September 1885, speaking to the Council of his Congregation, Don Bosco spoke of the Salesian Bulletin as a ‘powerful medium for my purposes’.
In the Third General Chapter of the Congregation, which took place in 1883, Don Bosco had already said:
It does not matter to us if we receive a hundred lira more or less, but what matters is to give the glory to God. This is why, if Governments will not give us support, the Salesian Bulletin will become a strength, not for itself but for the people that it will bring together.
Fr Viganò speaking to Bulletin editors:
The SB is a magazine of a charism, not simply a listing of superficial deeds; it informs, communicates, lets the vitality of the Salesian movement be seen, from consideration of problems around us, to cooperating with timely intelligence in new evangelisation.
GC 22, in 1984, in the definitive edition of the Constitutions retouched the article of the Regulations which then became no. 41, which says:
The Salesian Bulletin, founded by Don Bosco, spreads knowledge of Salesian spirit and activity, especially in its missionary and educational aspects. It is concerned with the problems of youth, encourages collaboration and tries to foster vocations. It is as well an instrument for formation and a bond of union between the different branches of the Salesian Family. It is edited in accordance with the directives of the Rector Major and his council in various editions and languages.
Don Bosco had a charism for involving a huge number of collaborators. Amongst them his own youngsters occupy a singular place. He had bands of volunteers in his houses: men and women, young people and adults, clergy and laity. He also set up the Cooperators. He wanted a typical and original association for them.
He won over others, leading them out of too much self-preoccupation, and opening them up to an educational and evangelizing mission on behalf of others.
He set up missions. He made something of an epic out of them, getting people to feel the joy and enthusiasm of power and giving.
For Don Bosco it was not just a case of leading to an awareness of good works, advertising the good so that people who had become materialists could be made aware that there were people out there doing good, but he wanted to spread ideas that supported and motivated the good that was being done, and do all this in a peaceful way to try to "win over the affection of people for our institutions".
One could reasonably say that Don Bosco, with his positive view of people, circumstances and history, had the inner intuition that good achieved and made known was able to reawaken good feelings and also the desire to get involved at a practical level.
This is the belief expressed by Fr Ricceri in his circular letter for the 1st centenary of the SB:
The positive awareness of the Salesian reality in the world can arouse - in honest people - Christian and thoughtful sentiments concerning the future of the young - a desire to know more about the Salesians reality which is so committed to this field, and to associate with us. This sets up a spontaneous and gradual passage from just taking on Salesian values to forming oneself in a true and proper Salesian way of thinking. And at the same time their desire to belong matures".
A charism has no bounds no limits. It is simply "human". What Fr Raineri said seems to be fully the case:
The SB should be considered as a Salesian work founded by Don Bosco which over time, has multiplied, like the Oratory, the Missions. Its purpose is to make the Salesian charism present and spread it as widely as possible, not for 'salesianismo' sake, but because 'salesianity' is a gift of the Holy Spirit to the whole Church
The final document of GC24 says:
Don Bosco conceived the SB as an instrument for linking, animating, forming and involving many lay people who look sympathetically on our works.
Today the Bulletin, printed in many editions in various places around the world, is a precious instrument of communication for a more complete sharing of the Salesian spirit and a more updated involvement in the educational and evangelizing mission of the Salesian Movement and Family".
In a healthy organization the whole is more important than the parts.
The Bulletin's color is enthusiasm. This means transmitting, via the overall tone of the magazine, a conviction about participating in a grand enterprise willed by God. It is the meta-communication that shows through the choice of each element in the publication.
The 4 Ps
The 4Ps are the four variables in the marketing mix: Product, Price, Positioning, Promotion.
The Product is not only the product in itself, but its entirety, the 'whole' that goes with it. The Bulletin can be an opening gambit for many other initiatives.
Price and Promotion of the Bulletin actually adopt the most politically incorrect formula one could imagine: gratis and for everyone. It is the same modern technique of advertising pamphlets that commercial centers have, as well as call centers.
Let me quote a non-Salesian source to express one of Don Bosco's certainties.
"The case of the holy individual Bartolo Longo is typical. His name will be forever bound up with the Sanctuary of the Madonna of Pompei. Having come to seek out Don Bosco whether in 1884 or 1885 we are not sure, he asked him what his secret was for winning over the world.
“Here is my secret", Don Bosco replied: “I send the Salesian Bulletin to whoever wants it and to those who don't want it”. This was a revelation for his questioner. He had not yet woken up to the power of the press; but returning to Pompei, he improved the printing shop he had, added to the number of machines and multiplied the number of copies of his bimonthly The Rosary and the Madonna of Pompei. From just four thousand in 1884, in ten years he had arrived at seventy two thousand. This is why Don Bosco was thought of down there as the one who “marked the move to the second stage of this Pompei periodical”.
Positioning is a bit more delicate: it is about identification of the product amidst so many other products. It means that the “client” has to be attracted by values which the product is the bearer of. It is the internalization of the message. This is precisely what Don Bosco wanted.
A POPULAR PRODUCT
The ABC of the chronicler (and of the Evangelist Mark) for an authentically popular product: Accuracy, Brevity, Clarity.
- Control of sources
- No repetition
- Not superfluous
- No rhetoric
- Speak in the readers' language
- One idea per sentence
- Each sentence a complee idea
SWOT (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats) is a good monitoring approach. the criteria on which it is based allows you to consider internal values and external factors at the same time so you can exploit the strong points of the enterprise, contain the weak ones, maximize opportunities and minimize risks.
Geneerate strategies that use strenghts to draw advantages from the opportunities.
Generate strategies to draw advantages from the opportunities by overcoming weaknesses.
Generate strategies using strengths to avoid threats.
Generate strategies that minimise weaknesses and avoid threats.