Quick Response Plan Necessary for Small Business Owners and Ministry Leaders

Having a quick response plan that lays out a clear process to follow when your company or ministry is suddenly at the wrong end of a media blitz is a necessary risk management tactic in today’s environment. This is especially true when you, as a Christian Business Owner, have taken a public stand that is contrary to our society’s norms and values. We’ve seen it happen to Hobby Lobby and Chick Fil-a along with smaller businesses such as Memories Pizza or Sweet Cakes, who have been called by God to defend our faith and publically suffer for it. I have talked about public relations with a hostile media in the past, so this is a follow-on to that article.

Before we get to the plan particulars, let’s talk about how to manage yourself during the media attention. There are some key aspects to managing yourself and your company when a hostile media shows up at your door. Here are some things to remember – and to bake into your response plan:

  1. Do not blame the liberal media if you don’t handle yourself well during the interview. They are not there to make you look good.
  2. Be authentic and natural – on camera and off camera.
  3. Try to connect with the audience behind the camera.
  4. Don’t look or sound angry
  5. Communicate principles – communicate what’s at stake
  6. Use their questions to deliver your mission and values
  7. Sometimes, it is smart to answer the question the interviewer should have asked, not the question they did ask.

Remember, your goal is to get your message clearly stated as a likable person with a good attitude. The goal of the interviewer is often to get a sensational quote, meet a deadline and keep the audience glued to their program. The interviewer’s goals are often not your goals, so understand that as long as you have met your goals in responding to the media, you have been successful, even if their report is full of inaccuracies or oppositional opinions. Simply present your principles and views, but don’t argue with the interviewer and don’t let them “get under your skin”. Keep your emotions in check.

Your response plan should include the following:

  1. Who: know who will invoke the rapid response process and under what criteria it will be invoked
  2. Who: know who will make the public statements and instruct everyone else in your company to offer a “no comment” with a follow-up that “so-and-so will be making a statement at such-and-such time”.
  3. What: have some prepared phrases for different types of situations ready to be used in a larger, overall comment or statement. Think through what you will say and not say. This is crucial: as a Christian business owner or ministry leader, you must understand what you believe and know what hills you will and won’t die on. You can’t decide this after the cameras are rolling and the microphone is in your face. You need to know what you’re really all about – both in business and in life – before the storm hits.
  4. Where: your process should include where you’ll make your statement(s) – do not agree to “ambush” interviews – offer to meet the interviewer at a time/place in the near future that is acceptable to both of you
  5. When: Reply on your timeline with sensitivity to the situational influencers.
  6. Why: Give a robust explanation of your thinking, but don’t plan on changing the minds or hearts of those who are opposing you.

The conflicts you’ll face might not be about issues that we’re facing today. But cultural trends can shift swiftly in our ever-connected society where the masses are swayed by sound-bite social media posts. Leading a business or ministry may result in God calling you to speak before the masses and give a reason for the hope that is in you and to defend the Christian faith. Having a response plan and knowing what you’ll say will help you represent the Lord and our Christian faith better.

Bill English