Amid mounting fears of a global coronavirus pandemic, a leading faith-based communications agency today issued a warning to ministries, churches and other organizations not to “go silent” in a sudden crisis.
“It’s imperative that any organization confronted with a crisis — whether it’s internal or external — doesn’t shut down communications,” said Palmer Holt, founder and CEO of InChrist Communications (ICC, www.inchristcommunications.com), an agency with extensive experience helping faith-based organizations navigate crisis situations.
ICC provided missions agency SIM USA with crisis communications counsel and services during the 2014-16 Ebola Crisis, which originated in West Africa.
“The coronavirus outbreak has demonstrated forcefully that it’s absolutely vital to communicate quickly, accurately, and decisively to the public before misinformation leads to potentially catastrophic results,” said Holt, a former newspaper editor and Fortune 100 company media relations executive.
Faith-based organizations, including churches and mission agencies, often lack media experience and are prone to panic during a crisis, said Holt, unveiling his agency’s new solution to crisis communications — a strategy called SAFE.
SAFE entails studying the threat, assessing the audience, framing the response, and successfully executing the crisis plan.
“SAFE is designed to help organizations quickly and confidently confront a sudden crisis, communicate clearly to stakeholders, and protect their reputation,” said Holt, whose agency is offering free SAFE resources and a strategy session online at safe.inchristcommunications.com.
“No organization should make the huge mistake of waiting until it’s in the middle of a crisis before scrambling to get its message out,” Holt said. “The way to protect your organization or ministry is to plan your own crisis communications strategy before you find yourself in a potential death spiral of negative media and social media backlash.”
No Time to Panic
Crises can strike anyone at any time and escalate rapidly in the media. “It’s crucial for every organization to be ready to deal with the media immediately and professionally from the outset, across all media channels,” Holt said. “A crisis is no time to panic — and the time to prepare is before a crisis happens.”
The tendency for many faith-based organizations, ministries and churches is to go silent when a crisis involves them, Holt said. “Their leaders go into hiding when they should be upfront, dealing openly with the crisis and the media, taking the initiative, and making sure that people hear quickly, honestly and sincerely from the organization’s leadership.”
The European Union’s Centre for Disease Prevention and Control says no organization should delay communicating in a crisis. “Open, honest, and ongoing interaction remains essential,” the agency says.
Holt and his team of professional journalists and media experts have steered dozens of local, national and international ministries, missions, and churches through crises. In addition to the Ebola Crisis, the company has helped faith-based organizations navigate through moral issues, financial controversies, internal and external violence, natural disasters, social and political issues, and international incidents such as kidnappings, coups, civil wars and untimely deaths.