joel_osteen

The Personal Branding of Religious Leaders

(English text below)
Ik ga promoveren!
Uiteindelijk gaat het dan toch gebeuren: ik ga promoveren. Donderdag 12 maart is mijn voorstel goedgekeurd op de Vrije Universiteit. Daarom ga ik zo’n 2 dagen per week als buitenpromovendus aan de slag met mijn onderzoek naar ‘The Personal Branding of Religious Leaders’.

Het was een lang gekoesterde wens om ‘iets’ te gaan doen in het onderzoek naar media, religie en cultuur. Op een gegeven moment kwamen er een paar dingen samen. Ik hield me bezig met storytelling en personal branding met het idee: hoe kunnen mensen zichzelf op een geloofwaardige manier presenteren om meer plezier te hebben in een werk en succesvoller te zijn in wat ze het liefst willen doen? Tegelijkertijd volgde ik een opleiding over content marketing. Ik was verbaasd, en soms verbijsterd over de geraffineerde manier waarop marketeers erin slagen om ons spullen te laten kopen waarvan we niet wisten dat we ze nodig hadden. Toen ik mijn verbazing deelde, kreeg ik al vrij snel reacties dat ‘de kerk’ eigenlijk net zo slecht bezig was.

Dat zette me aan het denken. Is dat wel zo? Na het lezen van het boek ‘Branding Faith’ zag ik des te duidelijker hoe, zeker in de Verenigde Staten, veel religieuze groepen precies dezelfde middelen inzetten als grote bedrijven. Nog interessanter vond ik dat religieuze leiders zelf zich daar steeds meer positioneren als een merk. Waar komt dat vandaan? Krijgen ze hier meer autoriteit door? En speelt dit ook zo in Europa, in Nederland? Dat zijn vragen die ik in mijn promotieonderzoek probeer te beantwoorden.
Onder de Engelse vertaling van dit stukje vind je de beschrijving van mijn onderzoek.

I’ll start a Phd!
Finally, it will happen: I will start a Ph.D. On Thursday 12 March, the Free University of Amsterdam has accepted my research proposal. Thus, I will start my research as a Ph.D. student for two days a week. The subject of my research is ‘The Personal Branding of Religious Leaders’.

It has been my dream for many years to do research on media, religion and culture. At some point, a few things came together. I was working on storytelling and personal branding with the idea: how can people present themselves in a credible way to be more successful and happy in the work they do? At the same time, I was enrolled in a course about content marketing. I was surprised, and sometimes astonished about the sophisticated way marketeers are able to let us buy stuff we did not know that we needed it. When I told the professor and the students my concerns, they told me ‘the church’ was doing the same thing.

This got me thinking: Is that really the case? After reading the book ‘Branding Faith’ I saw even more clearly how, especially in the United States, many religious groups were using the same marketing strategies that big corporations employed. I found it even more interesting that religious leaders are positioning themselves as a brand. Where does that come from? Does it contribute to their authority? And what is the difference between the United States and Europe, the Netherlands? These are questions that I will address in my research.

Description
This proposal aims to study the relationship between personal branding and the construction of authority of religious leaders, with a focus on religious leaders in the Netherlands. Dutch religious leaders such as Awraham Soetendorp, Antoine Bodar, Yassin Elforkani, Wilkin van der Kamp, Fred Omvlee, Henk Stoorvogel, and Roderick Vonhögen are applying several media channels to (consciously and unconsciously) brand themselves, their organization and their message. They appear regularly on television, in newspapers and magazines, and they promote themselves online, often supported by media and communication professionals. Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves as brands.  Personal branding, the practice of people marketing themselves as brands, was popularized by the American management writer Tom Peters and has become one of the key concepts in management literature. The practices of personal branding are not limited to the entrepreneurial world, but are also employed in the religious domain.

In a spiritual marketplace, new requirements are emerging for leadership. Religion is being marketed in the same way as consumer goods. Spiritual and religious leaders such as Oprah Winfrey, Deepak Chopra, Joel Osteen and, of course, Pope St. Francis have become charismatic media personalities. Leaders become ‘Faith Brands’ with their own mythology, central message and media channels, adapted to the styles and symbols of popular culture. What this means for the construction of authority is the subject of my research.

Theo Zijderveld