Family and Media Study Workshop: Language, Methods, and Strategies in an Internet Society

Family and Media Study Workshop: Language, Methods, and Strategies in an Internet Society

"Family Associations 2.0: Language, Methods, and Strategies in an Internet Society" was the topic at the Day Seminar organized on Friday, November 23 at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome. Three organizations collaborated on the initiative: Family Associations Forum, InterMedia Consulting and Family and Media.

The heart of the discussion was the family--which is simultaneously a subject and an object of communication in the media--and how to support family associations in a way that can help them transmit a proper understanding of their institution in public opinion.

The first part of the Seminar was an expert meeting on the topic "Between Research and Experience: Sharing Knowledge to Create Innovative Strategies." The Rev. Prof. José María La Porte (Holy Cross) took part in the discussion, presenting research on "The Communication of Family Associations" that was carried out between 2008 and 2010 with a sample of 31 associations. Dr. Pietro Boffi (Family Associations Forum) then presented research on "Minors and the Media: A question of Family. Use of the Media among Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults." Prof. Camillo Regalia (University of the Sacred Heart in Milan) presented third, with research about "The Challenge of Social Networks in Communication between Parents and Children." Finally, Dr. Reynaldo Rivera (InterMedia Consulting and Safe Social Media Project) spoke about research on "Lifestyles, Media, and Violence among adolescents: Cases in Spain and Italy.

The Seminar not only presented research but set the afternoon apart for discussing practical solutions. Five speakers were asked to participate in a round table discussion moderated by Francesco Belletti, President of the Italian Family Associations Forum, on Media Awarenes: Projects and Good Practices that Respond. Each had 20 minutes to describe a concrete problem in the media world or a concrete solution that currently works to meet a media challenge.

The first speaker was Norberto González Gaitano, a Professor at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, and Project Coordinator for Family and Media. A think tank based in Rome, Family and Media dedicates itself to promoting a respectful vision of the family in fiction and news media. In this way, helps family associations to communicate more efficiently. Through research, publications, and a website offer a significant contribution to the family and educators alike. By forming the formers, they indirectly work to spread a clearer, more positive image of the family in public opinion.

Reynaldo Rivera of InterMedia was the next speaker to contribute to the discussion. Presenting for the second time, he addressed a question common to many non-profit communicators: how can my association speak more effectively with politicians and the media? His answer—with numbers. Research holds valuable information, but is often too complicated. It must be “translated” into a language that is easily grasped by the desired public. “A well placed number,” stated Rivera, “can speak more than 500 pages of research.”

Following was Giuseppe Romano, a Professor of Communications at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, and expert in video games. He spoke about why gaming must be taken seriously. In the world of computers, the famous World of Warcraft is a representative example, with currently over 10 million annual paying subscribers around the world.

 Games speak a much stronger language than books or movies, stated Romano, because they involve a player's freedom to choose. They offer more than stories for watching, but worlds for entering as a protagonist. “If I am being asked to become the Godfather,” stated Romano, “the dynamic is very different.” In light of this, Romano emphasized the irreplaceable role of parents in choosing games for their children.

Fourth in the discussion was Rosa Martinez from the Institute for Family and Social Sciences of Montevideo in Uruguay. Her topic was the subliminal stimuli found in children's advertising. Subliminal means below the threshold of perception, while subliminal stimuli are techniques, not perceived by an un-aided eye, that nevertheless provoke an emotional response. Mrs. Martinez chose a handful of children's advertisements and played them frame by frame to point out the different techniques hidden in each one. Careful to emphasize that advertising is not an evil enterprise, she noted that placing subliminal stimuli at the service of marketing for children is manipulation.

The round table's final participant was Umberto Pieraccioni, representing FameBridge, a private company that specializes in brand management with digital media. He spoke about how to make the most of networks like Facebook and Twitter for marketing purposes. Acknowledging the difficulty of working in such a fast-changing Internet landscape, Mr. Pieraccioni offered four concrete suggestions that can help. He finished the discussion with a call to responsibility: the Internet and social networks are immensely powerful tools for professionals to work with and it is up to today's communicators to build the right marketing structures.

The round table discussion ended the day's events on a hopeful note. After a series of promising research and practical projects, the discussion's moderator Mr. Belletti, President of the Italian Family Associations Forum, gave the final word. “While we still have open questions, he concluded, we more importantly leave with ideas for moving forward from professionals who already have experience in the field.”