A self-professed, crusty, old crisis communication veteran gave me some sage advice at the start of my crisis communication career. “Wilhite, son, your job is to keep your head about you while all others are losing theirs.”
I can offer no better advice to you.
So, by the authority invested in me by PR authorities unnamed, I hereby deputize you with this same edict: keep your head while all others are losing theirs.
What we’re facing with the coronavirus is “the crisis by stampede”. People are running because people around them are running and they don’t even know why they are running. “Crisis by stampede” is the most difficult of all crises to tackle with communication. Rumor is far worse than reality. Fear sells far better than fact.
Organizations large and small have been trampled, with patrons suddenly bombarding management and leadership with, “What are YOU going to do to protect us?”
Patrons and in our case parishioners are expecting a statement from leadership. Lack of comment is not acceptable in a crisis.
Church leadership should post a few brief talking points and provide them for members to use personally.
When there is a crisis, the need for PERSPECTIVE is vital As organizations and individuals, in a crisis it is important to speak with one voice and with one message.
Perhaps talking points such as these would work for your organization.
- We are aware of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
- We are not medical authorities so we will always point you to official information. For example https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/index.html
- As for changing how we gather, we will take action as necessary, as we follow the advice from the experts. We will update you on this official page and the ways we normally relay information.
- We ask that you take a leadership role in replacing panic with perspective, fear with faith. We ask, especially, that you not add to the confusion on social media so that it can be used for clear information.
- We’re always stronger together. As a family of faith, let us unite in prayer, compassion and love with other families of faith around the world, as we pray for an end to the coronavirus.
This is an opportunity to share the hope that is within us. Let’s start now.