How to Practice the 10 R’s of Crisis Management

There are few certainties in ministry today. Unfortunately, one of them is the inevitability of a potential crisis occurring in our country, your community or even your church that could have a major effect on your congregation and even your reputation.

A crisis is an event, precipitated by a specific incident, natural or man-made, that attracts critical media attention and lasts for a definite period of time. Certainly, the COVID-19 pandemic qualifies.

But life is full of other types of disruptions, some seemingly minor in nature and others truly of a global scale. In between those two bookends are countless events that require leaders to be at the forefront in communicating to their organizations, the community, and the greater public.

When your church finds itself in the midst of a crisis, the ripple effects can disrupt lives and operations for the foreseeable future if public opinion is not properly addressed and stewarded.

Skillfully managing the perception of the crisis can determine the difference between an organization’s life or death. In the pitched battle between perception and reality, perception always wins.

There is a solution – you can prepare for the inevitable crisis by proactive actions that will help in preempting potential crises or help make them shorter in duration. Finding yourself in a crisis situation is bad; not being prepared when a crisis occurs is devastatingly worse.

THE QUICK SUMMARYCrisis Ahead: 101 Ways to Prepare for and Bounce Back from Disasters, Scandals, and Other Emergencies by Edward Segal

How many splashy scandals and crisis situations have befallen companies and public figures in the past week alone? How did the organizations and people at the center of those crises manage the situation? Did they survive with their reputations intact or are they facing an ongoing public nightmare that keeps building on itself in the era of social media?

This new book from veteran public relations expert Edward Segal is based on the following premise: it’s not a matter of IF a scandal or crisis will hit, it’s WHEN. How a company deals with it will have lasting impact on their reputation, profits, and more. But for most organizations, when a crisis hits, they’re caught off guard and ill-prepared. While essential, crisis plans are worthless unless properly executed, as the stories and examples featured throughout Crisis Ahead attest. Edward Segal’s vivid and memorable accounts underscore the benefits of practicing and updating crisis plans at least once a year. The book also includes a template for creating a customizable crisis management plan, and a list of the early crisis management lessons to be learned from the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic.

Crisis Ahead is for CEOs, senior staff, corporate communication professionals, HR and legal teams, boards of directors, and front-line employees who need to know what to do in the moment: what levers to pull and what moves to make in real time when faced with a crisis, scandal, or disaster. This book is written with the need for speed in mind. It’s concise and practical with a light touch and occasional humor to help people on the front lines prepare for, survive, and bounce back from a crisis. It includes dozens of anecdotes, stories, and lessons about how companies, organizations, and individuals – ranging from Amazon, Apple, and the European Union, to Disney, Starbucks, and entrepreneur Elon Musk – have prepared for, created, managed, and communicated about crisis situations.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

According to author Edward Segal, most organizations have not dealt with a crisis before, and certainly not one like the COVID-19 crisis. As it continues to unfold, it’s clear many organizations are flying blind.

If your organization doesn’t have a crisis plan, it’s time to make one now. Letting people know you have a plan for dealing with any type of disruption or crisis can help provide a level of confidence that you know what you are doing and are doing it in a logical, comprehensive, and coordinated fashion.

It’s not a matter of if companies will face a crisis, but when they will, where it will happen, how bad it will be, and what they will do about it.

There are several major steps you can take to help ensure that you are as ready as you can be for any crisis. Here are Segal’s “10 Rs of Crisis Management.”

Risk. Identify the risk triggers that would cause a crisis for your organization.

Reduce. Take the steps that are necessary and prudent to lessen known risks.

Ready. Have a crisis plan in place and ready to implement when it is needed.

Redundancies. Have back-up and contingency plans in case they are required.

Research. Get all the information you can about your crisis, including details about what just happened, is happening now, or you expect to happen.

Rehearse. Practice implementing your plan on a regular basis—at least once a year.

React. Activate your plan when necessary.

Reach Out. Immediately communicate with those who are affected by or concerned about the crisis.

Recover. Know how you would bounce back from a crisis.

Remember. Keep in mind the experiences of those who have already gone through a crisis.

Edward Segal, Crisis Ahead: 101 Ways to Prepare for and Bounce Back from Disasters, Scandals, and Other Emergencies

A NEXT STEP

Set up a time with your leadership team to review your organization’s preparedness through the lens of the 10 R’s of crisis management listed above.

First, copy and distribute this page to all of your team, asking them to read it in advance of the meeting.

Second, write each “R” word on a chart tablet, two or three per sheet. Beginning at the top, use the accompanying phrase to discuss as a team how your organization has addressed or is addressing the situation. List any current actions with a green marker, and any actions that need to be done with a red marker.

Finally, after you have worked through the entire list of 10 words, go back and as a team assign responsibilities for each item in red to a specific leader. Ask them to prepare a preliminary plan of action and report back to the team within 10 days.

5 Steps to Developing and Maintaining a Crisis Communication Plan

There are few guarantees in ministry today. Unfortunately, one of them is the inevitability of a potential crisis occurring in our country, your community or even your church that could have a major effect on your congregation and even your reputation.

A crisis is an event, precipitated by a specific incident, natural or man-made, that attracts critical media attention and lasts for a definite period of time. Recent church crises include a devastating hurricane in Houston, a gunman in Nashville, or a public moral failure of a national leader.

When your church finds itself in the midst of a crisis, the ripple effects can disrupt lives and operations for the foreseeable future if public opinion is not properly addressed and stewarded.

Skillfully managing the perception of the crisis can determine the difference between an organization’s life or death. In the pitched battle between perception and reality, perception always wins.

If this feels ominous and overwhelming to you, take heart. There is a solution – you can prepare for the inevitable crisis by a proactive and preventative method for preempting potential crises. Finding yourself in a crisis situation is bad; not being prepared when a crisis occurs is devastatingly worse.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – PR Matters: A Survival Guide for Church Communicators by Justin Dean

Is your church prepared to handle a crisis well? Do you have a plan in place for how to deal with negative comments on social media? Are you afraid to try new communications methods?

In PR Matters, Justin Dean provides practical advice on how to communicate the gospel well and reach more people in a world that wants Christians to be bland.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION – Develop and maintain a Crisis Management Plan

Most people think of Public Relations (PR) when a crisis hits. And frankly, by then it’s too late.

PR matters because without someone keeping the story straight, the world around us is going to keep knocking it off its track. If you don’t tell your story, someone else will make it up for you. No one has an agenda to get your story straight, only you.

However, like a two-edged sword, successful PR means increased awareness of your organization to the world – a good thing. But as your external awareness is increasing, so is the risk of something going wrong.

All your efforts to positively manage the perception of your organization and get your message out can come crashing down at any moment.

That is called a crisis.

Just because a crisis has never happened before, doesn’t mean it won’t ever happen.

A “crisis” is defined as a problem that can endanger the church’s reputation and/or financial position and can occur as a result of a legal, management/employment, advocacy, political, or public relations issue. In short, a crisis is anything that can derail a church or organization from its mission, whether for a short period of time or indefinitely.

You can never know what will happen or when it’s going to happen, but you can do your best to prepare for almost any scenario by having a Crisis Management Plan.

There are five steps to developing and maintaining an effective Crisis Management Plan:

  1. Form a Crisis Communications Team. The Crisis Communications Team should consist of the key players that you will need to convene in the time of a crisis. It is important to decide who those people are now, so you don’t waste time debating about it when a crisis hits.

  2. Document a Plan. A crisis plan isn’t just a loose plan you have in your head. It needs to be written down, rehearsed, and constantly adapted. It needs to be something all the key players know about and understand.

  3. Anticipate Common Crisis Scenarios. You won’t be able to anticipate and plan for every type of crisis, but you can anticipate, even predict, many of the most common ones. The idea is to identify the most likely scenarios, and start planning now for what you will do if any of those scenarios become real life.

  4. Stay Informed. You can’t just create a plan, throw it in a binder, and store it on the shelf. You need to be constantly prepared and ready. That means having a pulse on the public perception of your church, the internal perceptions, current events, political issues, laws that may affect your church or its members, potential threats, security issues, and so much more.

  5. Keep it Updated. You can’t just write a crisis plan up and stick it on a shelf. It will become a living document that you should update monthly.

Justin Dean, PR Matters: A Survival Guide for Church Communicators

A NEXT STEP

Does your church have a Crisis Management Plan?

If you answered “Yes” to that question, review your current plan in the context of the five steps listed above, with particular focus on Step 5, “Keep It Updated.”

If you answered “No” to the question, organize a meeting with your senior leadership team and board. At that meeting, introduce the concepts of a Crisis Management Plan by reproducing this SUMS Remix and giving to all participants.

For the initial meeting, focus on Step Three, “Anticipate Common Crisis Scenarios.” In a focused discussion, develop a list of common crisis scenarios that could occur at your church and trigger a crisis. Keep going until you can’t think of any more. Narrow the list down to the top five that are most likely to happen at your church.

For those top five, write up specific plans for each scenario. In order to accomplish, pretend that the scenario actually happened, and walk through each step you should take, writing it all down on a chart tablet.

After this meeting, create a Crisis Management Planning Team, and have that team develop all five steps listed above. When they are finished with their work, have the team present their Crisis Management Plan to the appropriate groups for approval, implementation, and ongoing relevance.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 92-1, released May 2018


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

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