I kicked off this series in part one of 'How To Avoid A PR Disaster At Your Church' with what happens when something or someone fails to do what they are supposed to do. Part two focused on what happens when social media goes wrong. Today we'll be covering another (PR) disaster that happens at churches.
One of the biggest PR disasters that can happen to a church is when the most senior leader in the church is fired for inappropiate behaviour, it could be sexual, financial or ethical. Fill in the blank. Someone somewhere has probably done it. I said before that church marketing is everything. This is just one more sad example.
If it is a senior leader, they are removed often leaving the church in a mess, the congregation confused about what really went on, and the media is usually breathing down the neck of leaders left standing wanting answers on the spot.
There are numerous examples of how the media portray what happened, here, here and here. You don't even need to be fired or actually break any law, check out what happened to Ed Young . Even the perception of doing the wrong thing can get you into hot water with the media. The way you see a situation may not be the way the media sees it.
I've blogged about about what Tiger Woods can teach churches about communications last year. If you are a leader who could be facing something like this and want to know how to respond, check it out. I would also appeal to you to step aside for the reputation of your church and Jesus.
If you are a church leader where your senior leader has failed or you want to do contingency planning, this post will help you take the initiative.
1. Implement a crisis management plan - Do you know how you will respond in a crisis like this? Do you know who your spokesperson will be? Do you know who to contact to get your message out? No? Then you need a plan. Talk to someone who knows more about it than you, don't try and figure it out by yourself. Lead with your strengths, let others lead you with theirs. There are plenty of communications specialists out there who can help.
2. Get media training for your next level leadership or Board spokesperson - If it ever happens you need to be prepared. You will definately be in the hot seat. How you handle it is vital. You can come across in the media in the worst way, or you can seen to have an appropiate response.
3. Rehearse out senarios. Review how you handled it. What came up that you didn't expect? What worked, what didn't work?
4. Go back to step one.
This is a taboo subject. I don't think I've ever seen any church communications peep blog on it before. No one wants to be the guy or girl that has to bring this subject up with their senior leadership. There needs to be a great deal of sensitivity in approaching this with others. But your church needs to be prepared. It may never happen, but if it does happen it will happen so quickly and your church will feel so out of control that you'll be wishing you did it.