Consider this scenario: One day you receive a phone call from your local news outlet that goes something like this, "Hi, this is Channel 7 News. We understand a member of your staff has been arrested. We have a few questions we'd like to ask you."
What do you say?
As difficult as that situation would be, your response to the media will either help or hurt your church and those involved. It's important to get it right.
In the Risk Management LIVE discussion on handling sexual misconduct allegations, we outline an allegation response plan including how to effectively deal with the media. You can be prepared ahead of time by following these guidelines:
- Designate one person, often the senior pastor, to be the spokesperson.
- Practice what you will say. See below for a suggested response.
- Never say, "No comment." This generally causes people to automatically assume guilt.
- Don't lie or mislead.
- Remember they only want about 30 seconds for their broadcast.
- You don't have to answer the specific questions asked. Simply give your response.
Here is a safe, simple, four-part response:
- We have had an incident.
- The incident is currently under investigation.
- We don't have all the details at this time.
- We are now and will always cooperate with the authorities.
Additionally, keep in mind that your interaction with the press represents a golden opportunity to speak directly to your community and build trust. It's a chance to emphasize how seriously your church takes the safety of its people and to highlight preventive measures you've taken to provide a safe place, such as background and reference checks.
Remember, the public will be watching. How you choose to respond can affect your church's reputation in your community. When the press comes calling, make sure you know how to answer them.
For more information about how you can protect those in your church, call our risk management team at 866.662.8210 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.