Do You Understand the Nature of YOUR Crisis?

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 SUMMARY – Crisis Communications: The Definitive Guide to Managing the Message by Steven Fink

Skillfully managing the perception of the crisis determines the difference between a company’s life or death. Because in the pitched battle between perception and reality, perception always wins.

The inevitability of a crisis having a potentially major effect on your business and your reputation – at some point – is almost a guarantee. When your company finds itself in the midst of a crisis, the ripple effects can disrupt lives and business for the foreseeable future if public opinion is not properly shaped and managed.

Fortunately, there is a solution. Crisis communications and crisis management legend Steven Fink gives you everything you need to prepare for the inevitable—whether it’s in the form of human error, industrial accidents, criminal behavior, or natural disasters.

In this groundbreaking guide, Fink provides a complete toolkit for ensuring smooth communications and lasting business success through any crisis. Crisis Communications offers proactive and preventive methods for preempting potential crises. The book reveals proven strategies for recognizing and averting damaging crisis communications issues before it’s too late. The book also offers ways to deal with mainstream and social media, use them to your advantage, and neutralize and turn around a hostile media environment.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

According to author Steven Fink, a good working definition of a crisis is any situation, that if left unattended, has the potential to:

  • Escalate the intensity
  • Damage the reputation or positive public opinion of the organization or its leadership
  • Interfere with the normal operations
  • Fall under close government or media scrutiny
  • Impact the organization’s financial well-being

Using the five-step list above as a pragmatic guide, the responsible leader will realize that what may not qualify as a minor crisis in one situation may actually threaten the existence of the organization in another.

So the question becomes, do you know what YOUR crisis is?

Before you can even begin to think about communicating during a crisis, there are three absolute imperatives that must be undertaken in any crisis situation.

Steven Fink

Identify your crisis

Isolate your crisis

Manage your crisis

IDENTIFY

How hard can it be to identify a crisis when it’s happening to your organization? Actually, it’s harder than you might think. Focus on identifying your crisis – the one with which you have to deal, the one over which you have some measure of control. Try to avoid distracting scenarios, of which there will be many.

In a crisis, especially a crisis with competing interests, the only person who is looking out for your organization’s reputation is you.

ISOLATE

Isolation might very well mean designating a crisis management team to deal exclusively with the crisis, with its members temporarily delegating their normal duties and responsibilities to others for the duration of the crisis. Ideally, this team would be isolated from the rest of the company, and hopefully, keep quiet about its progress until the appropriate time.

MANAGE

If you have properly identified and then successfully isolated the crisis, the actual management of the crisis is the easiest part (assuming you are a good manager to begin with). That’s because you will now be laser-focused on the specific task at hand, and once you’ve cleared away the distracting brush, your mission becomes crystal clear. When that occurs, making vigilant decisions – the epitome of good crisis management – is well within your grasp.

Steven Fink, Crisis Communications: The Definitive Guide to Managing the Message

A NEXT STEP 

While the COVID-19 crisis is certainly on everyone’s mind, it is truly a once-in-a-lifetime event, and “understanding” it in terms of the discussion above is beyond the scope of this exercise.

However, your organization likely has faced a crisis within the last year – a physical event, a natural disaster, or a personnel issue. No matter what the crisis, it was a disruption to your normal activities.

Using a past crisis, have your team walk through the three steps listed above. You are actually doing a post-mortem or after-action report: using a past event, evaluated through a new lens (the three steps above) to help prepare you for the next time you have a crisis.

Taking note of any actions you should have done, but didn’t, develop an action plan to make sure you do it the next time.


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

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

Along with early and ongoing encouragement from my parents – especially my father – reading was established as a passion in my life that I was happy to continually learn from, share with my children, and watch them share with their children.

Reading keeps our minds alive and growing.

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.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<