Charlotte’s Faith Communicators group will meet this month to discuss how to prepare for the moment they hope never comes.
Recent tragedies, including the slaying of nine church members at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June in downtown Charleston, are a reminder that nonprofit organizations and houses of worship need to have a communications plan in place when crisis strikes, said Ken Garfield, director of communications for Myers Park United Methodist Church.
“It could be an act of violence, a natural disaster or something else unforeseen,” Garfield wrote in an email. “How can anyone plan for what seems to be taking place, shockingly, with increasingly frequency?
“The least we can do is think about it, pray about it and figure out the best way to share accurate information.”
Faith Communicators, a networking group at Myers Park United Methodist Church, is not officially affiliated with a church but meets at Myers Park Baptist’s Cornwell Center. The group offers a free program each month, and will host Liz Chandler and David Coburn of Charlotte advertising, digital and public relations agency Luquire George Andrews on Aug. 28.
Garfield, former Charlotte Observer religion writer, and John Bambach, technology and communications director for Myers Park Baptist’s Cornwell Center, spearhead Faith Communicators, which has met for several years.
We’re not staffed, equipped or trained to talk to the media or communicate with our members in the space of a few moments.
Ken Garfield, director of communications for Myers Park United Methodist Church
Chandler and Coburn will talk about how nonprofits and churches can share information quickly and accurately with the congregation, community and media. Chandler and Coburn are experienced journalists and former Charlotte Observer reporters.
At LGA, Coburn is a senior public relations strategist who specializes in helping corporate and financial clients navigate complex issues. Chandler specializes in crisis communications and media relations.
On Aug. 28, the two will cover how to decide who should speak for each organization attendees represent and which media platforms, including social media and email, are most effective for those organizations to reach people quickly.
The discussion also will cover when to hold a news conference, how to decide what information to share and what to withhold, and how to communicate with members who don’t use electronic platforms for information.
Those topics can be difficult for houses of faith with large staffs, much less small congregations with only a pastor and administrative assistant, Garfield said.
Congregations generally are staffed to preach God’s love and put it into practice, not deal with a shooter, arsonist or other crisis, he said.
“We’re not staffed, equipped or trained to talk to the media or communicate with our members in the space of a few moments,” he wrote in an email. “That’s why we need to talk about how to do it, before we actually have to do it.”
Poor communication after a crisis can lead to misinformation that “spreads like wildfire, along with fear and confusion,” Garfield said.
The program, 10 a.m. Aug. 28, is free and open to anyone who works in communications in the faith and nonprofit communities. The meeting will be at the Cornwell Center of Myers Park Baptist Church, 2001 Selwyn Ave.
Marty Minchin is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information about Faith Communicators, contact Ken Garfield at 704-295-4819 or email@example.com.