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.

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.

When Crisis Strikes, Be Sure to Craft and Communicate Your Public Response

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 – Crisis Management by Richard Luecke

All organizations are subject to crises. Leaders whose organizations encounter a crisis must act quickly, yet few leaders receive any formal training in this critical area.

In today’s volatile work environment, avoiding disaster is more important than ever. Crisis Management helps managers identify, manage, and prevent potential crises.

Full of tips and tools on how to prepare an emergency list and how to utilize pre-crisis resources, this book shows managers how to shepherd their teams from crisis to success.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION – Craft and communicate your response.

There is no one who can speak more effectively for you and your organization than you. If your organization finds itself in a crisis situation – and even more so if you are the victim in a crisis – both your constituents and the public need to hear your voice.

Failure to make yourself heard in a crisis is a very risky move, almost as much as failing to communicate at all.

It is inevitable that there will be a time in the future when you find it essential to take your important and time-sensitive message to the public. In most cases that will involve communicating your message through both mainstream news media and social media platforms.

Those who reach out on behalf of your organization should be well briefed on not only what to say but what questions might arise and how those questions should be answered so that the entire organization is speaking with a single voice.

Communication through the media – newspapers, television, and radio – must be used to accurately frame the crisis in the public’s mind. Fail to deal with the media effectively, and your side of the story may never be heard.

Give intense attention to how you communicate with the public through the media. Your messages should be accurate and candid. They should also represent your point of view and include facts that support it. If you get your messages out early and often, there is a good chance that you will successfully frame the story in the public’s mind.

Give Them the Facts

One way to get across the story you want told is to (1) anticipate the questions that news reporters are likely to ask and (2) make a list of the five questions you would least liked to be asked and then be prepared to answer them. Be assured someone will ask those difficult questions. By anticipating media questions, you can form and articulate clear, complete responses that present your side of the story.

Use the Right Spokesperson

Who should be the spokesperson? In most cases it should be the identifiable leader, usually the CEO. When the crisis involves highly technical issues on which the CEO is not a credible authority, consider a team approach to speaking with the media. In this team approach, the CEO provides context and an overview of the situation. He or she will then ask a more technically knowledgeable subordinate to fill in the details – in nontechnical terms, you hope.

Segment Your Audience

Audience segmentation is the basis of an effective communication plan. First, segment your audience by interests. Once you have segmented your audience, you will have a better idea of the messages you need to develop and convey to each segment. You will need to develop different messages for different audiences. Just be sure those different messages are consistent and do not contradict one another.

Select the Most Appropriate Media

As a crisis communicator, you must match the media to the audience. Do this by first answering these questions:

  • With which audience segments should I communicate?

  • Which are the best media for reaching each segment?

  • What particular information will each segment value most?

Richard Luecke, Crisis Management

A NEXT STEP

If you have a Crisis Management Plan (see Solution #1), make sure the individual in charge is following the above suggestions when dealing with the media following a crisis.

If you do not have a Crisis Management Plan, designate a senior team member or board member to be the spokesperson in a crisis situation. Once this person is selected, convene your leadership team and board for a working session to work through the above points. This process will give the designated spokesperson the relevant information needed to convey to the media in any future crisis.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 92-2, 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<<