Archive for May 2011

Did you know that public relations has a patron saint and May 20 is his feast day? He is St Bernardino of Siena.

Bernardino (also known as Bernardine), a Franciscan preacher, was born in 1380. Orphaned early, he was sent to school in Siena where he excelled in classical studies. During the Plague of 1400 he spent four months ministering to the stricken at the hospital of Santa Maria della Scala. His career in the Order of Friars Minor was outstanding, particularly in the areas of recruitment, eloquent preaching and the writing of homiletics. He was a successful evangelist and propagandist who travelled throughout Italy for 30 years. Following his death at Aquila in 1444, a basilica was built in the town and his body remains on display there.

But how did he become the saint for PR, which is a modern profession? According to the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, issued by the Sacred Congregation for the Causes of Saints in the Vatican, a petition was brought by Cardinal Lecaro of Bologna in 1956, successfully seeking the nomination of Bernardino as Patron Saint of public relations practitioners in Italy. In 1960, Cardinal Feltin, Archbishop of Paris, sought and obtained a similar designation of Bernardino as Patron Saint of PR professionals in France. Since then, the Italian preacher-writer has become the universal Patron Saint of PR.

Bernardino is, however, not only the PR’s saintly minder, but he also stands for debtors and gamblers, Aquila, California, advertisers and communication people and chest problems.

(With acknowledgement to John M. Reed).


 Last autumn (2010) saw the launch of Unplugged, when first year students at Bournemouth University (BU) volunteered to go without any media (other than a landline phone) for 24 hours. It was covered by a lot of media and BBC’s technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones reported it on the 10 O’clock News.

It was part of a worldwide experiment and the results have been posted at In them you’ll see the reactions of students, many of whom realised they were ‘addicted’ to media and had short-term withdrawal symptoms.

 There are many interesting outcomes: one was that the students perceived news as all information whether it is from Facebook, IM, Twitter, newspapers, online or broadcast. The more tersely delivered the better, hence the love of 140 character Twitter. This may have important downstream impacts on media literacy and consumption.

 The UK end of the study was run by Dr Roman Gerodimos and Shelley Thompson, a doctoral student, in BU’s Media School. They are now considering how to incorporate Unplugged in their teaching each year, as it provokes a strong reflection of “why do I engage with all these media” (often at the same time) and “is there another lived existence with less media”.

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Tom Watson

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