Are You Ready for Your Next Crisis?

#MeToo, LGBTQ issues, active shooters, racial tensions, social media activism, data breaches, theological disputes—today’s cultural landscape is rife with potential landmines for your organization. We have seen some of the largest Christian institutions suffer or fall due to these and other circumstances. Most were not prepared.

As social movements continue sweep across the country, and culture becomes increasingly hostile to traditional Christian values, it is time to take stock of how your organization would weather a crisis. Specifically, you should consider these steps:

Have you assessed your vulnerabilities?

In addition to the obvious list, your staff and stakeholders likely hold the keys to hidden issues waiting to surface. You should also review organizational policies, procedures and communiques for potential red flags.

Do your staff members know how to surface and respond to concerns?

Untrained staff members can be one of your largest liabilities. An errant or rash response, or leak of sensitive information, can make a campfire into a forest fire. Your staff needs to know what to escalate and how, as well as have basic communications training.

Are your spokespeople identified and trained?

Spokespeople are often the keystone of a crisis response, and during a crisis is not the time for someone to learn on the job. Your team needs to know who the spokespeople are, and they need to be comfortable articulating the messages you want your constituencies to hear.

Do you have a crisis response plan in place?

Policies, procedures, protocols and escalation plans put you in the best possible position to quickly and effectively respond to a crisis. Your entire staff needs to be in sync on how your organization handles crises and their individual roles during this sensitive time.

Is your board aware of your plans and trained on how to respond?

These are your de facto advocates, but they cannot help if they are not in the loop. They also reside outside the normal chain of command, which means they are more at risk for going rogue if they are not well informed.

Do you have a social media response plan?

Social media may be one of the most dangerous elements of today’s crises. Everyone with a platform is essentially a reporter and, as we have all witnessed, the online crowd can band together and turn hostile fast, if not assuaged.

Have you developed a messaging matrix?

Along with your spokespeople, your messages will make or break the crisis and your reputation. It is a nuanced dance of context, contrition, explanation, ownership and resolution.

Have you identified your stakeholders and how you plan to address them?

You need to know who to address, with which messages, through which vehicles and in what order. Stakeholders can become advocates or adversaries during a crisis.

Do you have early warning systems—news media and online monitoring?

Don’t fly blind. With so much content, conversation and influence living online, you need to know what is being said about you in real-time. Monitoring systems can give you vital perspective on a burgeoning issue and help you know how to react.

Do you have a relationship with an experienced communications counselor?

Even with extensive preparation, you cannot anticipate every situation or plan for all the intricacies a crisis will deliver. You need to have an existing relationship with an experienced crisis counselor—someone who knows your organization and can help guide you through to the other side.

These are all questions your leadership and board should answer—soon. Because once the crisis strikes, the countdown begins to serious reputational and organizational damage. You do not want to be playing catch up while your brand equity runs down the drain.


Guardian PR & Events (https://guardianpr.co) is a public relations, brand and event management agency that exists to support those advancing good in the world. The Guardian team of 10 has more than 115 years of collective experience in their niche and has assisted scores of Christian organizations, universities, high schools and churches on crisis situations or in preparation for potential crises. Issues have included:




LGBTQ issues

Active shooters


Social media activism

Campus access

Religious freedom

Theological disagreements

Doctrinal disputes

Abortion-rights activists

Online trolls

Crusading bloggers



Data breaches


Financial impropriety

Donor/donation abuse

IRS targeting

Statements/affirmations of faith

Sexual abuse/assault



Accidental deaths


Ethics violations

Questions on credentials

Leadership transitions

Attacks by activist organizations

Missionary complications


Denominational separation/property

Separation of church and state

Contagions, outbreaks and infections

Issues with foreign governments

Compliance issues



Emotional/verbal abuse


This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.