Surviving A Church PR Crisis with Justin Dean (PCP158)

What would you do if the unexpected happened? Is your church prepared to weather the storm of a crisis?

March 28th, 2017

Justin Dean, author of PR Matters, aims to help your church avert, manage, survive or navigate the inevitable crises that arise. Even a bad review can constitute a crisis. Is your church ready to deal with a storm when it comes? Justin worked in the PR trenches during the dissolution of Mars Hill, and offers top-level advice for every kind of crisis.

What’s In This Session?

  • Navigating the PR nightmare of Mars Hill Church through 2014 (9:42)
  • Why PR is a pre-emptive measure (12:17)
  • The importance of selecting a point-person (15:25)
  • Brainstorming potential PR scenarios (17:42)
  • Tips for writing pre-written statements on controversial topics (23:11)
  • The most overlooked key to church public relations (26:34)
  • Big mistakes churches make with PR (35:27)

Show Notes & Resources Mentioned

3 Instant Takeaways

    1. Build your strategy before the crisis. Have a spokesperson in place — someone who will reply to the local media, if it gets to that point. Know your church’s stance on five hot topics in case you are challenged on them, and have some pre-written responses for specific situations. A possible scenario might include being challenged on how church funds are being spent.
    2. Build up equity before the crisis. Form relationships with your community. Build rapport and connections on social media by answering comments and engaging with people. Reach out to local media before they reach out to you.
    3. Don’t run from a crisis. Pretending nothing happened isn’t a strategy. Deleting every negative review on your social media isn’t as helpful as responding positively to them. Your church doesn’t get stronger by hiding from conflict.
  • I started this podcast on my way to work today, so I haven’t made it all the way through. Is there a “Top 5” list of situations every church should have in their PR nightmare prep kit? A couple I remember from listening and from here are Where do funds go and stance on sexuality. I can think of a situation that could arise involving the nursery or any kids group. And I know i’m missing some situations, but if there was list for when we have this discussion, that would help.

    • Hey Brandon. Great question. It definitely varies from church to church, but here are some examples of things every church should have a plan in place to handle, should they occur:

      1. A major service impact issue at one or more local churches due to weather, protests, or natural disaster, etc.
      2. A church leader scandal, accusation, death, or other event that would put the leader out of commission either temporarily or permanently.
      3. Accusation of illegal or unethical accounting practices or financial related event that may impact donations.
      4. A news reporting agency showing up unannounced at a church event.
      5. A plan to deal with negative comments or posts on social media about the church (on your own channels or elsewhere)

      This would be in addition to working up a document that lists the church’s official stance on hot topic issues such as homosexuality, women in leadership, abortion, legal drugs, etc. (list out bullet point style talking points that leaders and other church representatives can use to all get on the same page).

      Hope that helps!