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Communication by churches can ease coronavirus fears

Amid mounting fears of a global coronavirus pandemic, a faith-based communications agency warns 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. “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.”

READ: Here’s latest map of cases

Faith-based organizations, including churches and mission agencies, often lack media experience and are prone to panic during a crisis, 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,” he 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.”

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.

The main goal is for churches to calm fears while providing reliable information.

–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice