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I am blogging from the annual meeting of the Colonial Chocolate Society in Williamsburg this week.  As much as some of us believe that chocolate should be another sacrament that is not why I am here.  This is one of the fun events I attend as the overseer of an historic site.  Several colonial members of Old North were in the chocolate business and we are expanding our interpretive program on the topic.

The conference, sponsored by Mars Chocolate, is focused on brand marketing this year.  One of our speakers, from the advertising giant, BBDO, asserted that marketing had three basic goals.  What she said about historic sites and chocolate, applies well to our marketing task in the discernment process.  What then are the three goals of presenting ourselves to search committees according to this speaker?

  1. Get noticed – We need to stand out among the many candidates for a specific opening.  What is the unique blend of skills and values that makes us stand out among all candidates?  For example, M&M’s are colorful, fun chocolates.  Ms. Brown and Ms. Red are the cartoon characters that reinforce colorful and fun.  What makes you special?  How can you communicate that quickly?
  2. Be remembered – We need to make an emotional connection with search committees.  The intellectual connection, i.e. these are my skills and successes, will only get us so far.  Ultimately, the decision to call a specific priest is emotional (and often irrational in the best sense).  Search committee members are asking, do I want the next number of years of my spiritual journey with this person?
  3. Be understood – We need to communicate a sense of purpose and a sense of personality.  Search committees want to know what makes us tick.  Another speaker asserted that understanding is a two-way form of communication.  Her example was a dinner table companion who spent the evening talking about themselves.  At the end of such a one-way conversation, the listener is reduced to saying “uh huh” and “yes” while their mind has gone someplace else.  True understanding requires dialog, which is often hard for us as candidates to remember when in an interview.

The other point the marketing experts made several times was the importance of stories for conveying meaning.  Stories are easier for our minds to capture and retain than, for example, lists of facts.  Try this biblical exercise: remember these two biblical passages: the Beatitudes and the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  Which image is clearer and more expansive in your mind?  Can you cite all the Beatitudes from memory?  Do they evoke emotion?  Can you envision the characters in the Parable of the Prodigal Son?  Do they evoke an emotional response?

What are the stories that will help you get noticed, be remembered and be understood?  Are those the stories you tell in your essays and interviews?

Chocolate is a food that evokes a strong emotional response, which is why historic sites are including chocolate stories in their educational programs.  Given its power, I wonder if we could find the stories to justify making chocolate into a sacracment?