In times of crisis, the media (newspapers, bloggers, TV news crews, etc.) can help a church they can also make the situation worse. To help ensure your church maximizes positive press coverage (and minimizes negative press), Texas Pastor Ken Dixon offers the following ten pieces of media relations advices.
Use a Spokesperson Churches would be wise to offer media inquiries a single point of contact. By funneling media communications through a single spokesperson, churches help ensure a consistent message is presented.
Put a Friendly Face Forward It's important that the representative chosen by the church to speak in front of the media is "not too uptight," advises Dixon. "They should have a sense of humor and not be too sensitive to criticism."
Use Inclusive Language Avoid church jargon or "inside" language. "Everything should be explained in clear words," Dixon says.
Use Time Wisely Sometimes giving an immediate statement is the right thing to do. Other times, it makes sense to step and regroup. As Dixon says, "Time can be a friend or even an enemy."
Be Considerate of Deadlines Ask for due dates and times, and then mind them. "A reporter shouldn't be given information 15 minutes before they go to print or 15 minutes after they air," Dixon says.
Be Cooperative Representatives should try to accommodate the press as best they can. Avoid suspicious comments, like "no comment."
Don't Be Naïve No matter what you're told, don't assume anything will be "off the record." As Dixon puts it, "Every piece of information you put out in front of a reporter should be thoroughly reviewed first."
Don't Lie Choosing words carefully is one thing; telling a lie is another. "Lying creates more problems," Dixon says. "Always tell the truth."
Find Counsel Aside from cost, there is no downside to seeking legal counsel. "It's also OK to get help from friends or family," Dixon says.
Follow the Plan Dixon advises all churches to establish and rely upon a crisis response plan. Each church should take time to create this thorough document.
Geoffrey Oldmixon is a Massachusetts based freelance writer.