Is your church prepared to handle a crisis? In PR Matters, Justin Dean introduces what Public Relations and crisis management mean for the church. But is this really something your church needs to concern itself with?
From the Back Cover
Is your church prepared to handle a crisis well? Do you have a plan in place for how to deal with negative comments on social media? Are you afraid to try new communications methods?
In PR Matters, Justin Dean provides practical advice on how to communicate the gospel well and reach more people in a world that wants Christians to be bland.
About The Author
Justin Dean is a church communications advisor and entrepreneur. He served in senior marketing roles in the corporate startup world for over a decade before joining Mars Hill Church in Seattle as the Communications Director in 2011. He oversaw all social media, content, editorial, communications, and public relations for the growing megachurch until they ultimately closed their doors for good at the end of 2014.
Justin is now the co-founder of That Church Conference, helping digital communicators tell the best story the church has to tell through conferences, workshops, and online resources (learn more at thatcc.com). When he’s not helping churches, Justin can often be found on the lake or eating tacos with his wife and four kids. You can contact Justin on Twitter @justinjdean or go to justinjdean.com for more info.
Disclaimer: I am a happy customer of Justin’s training services, as well as a recipient of a That Church Summit All Access Pass Giveaway. However, that doesn’t affect my review. If this book stinks I would be just as honest and tell you. Luckily it doesn’t. Moving on…
Why PR Matters…Matters
We live in a world where anyone can take offense to anything. No matter how great of a Pastor you are or how great your congregation is, you’re only one offense away from having a crisis on your hands. One sin, one rumor, one accident…
Do you have a Public Relations (PR) plan in place?
Someone needs to be prepared. So who is going to handle the crisis if/when it comes? And what skills are they looking for?
Justin Dean lays it out in the first section of the book, listing the 10 valuable traits a PR point-person needs or needs develop, such as discernment, trust, a thick skin, humility, and more.
And what about after you find a PR manager?
Now you need a plan. What are your goals? How do you stay consistent with your message? How do you communicate your message? These are the next steps laid out in PR Matters.
But a PR plan is not just getting your “PR guy” in place (which is super important and shouldn’t be haphazardly assigned to a volunteer). You also need a plan. It’s kind of like how you can find a guy who can accurately throw a football down the field. He’s not a great quarterback until he knows the plays to run and situations to react to.
Luckily, you don’t have to create the plan yourself from scratch. PR Matters introduces the essentials to get you started, like creating goals and a communications guide.
But a plan isn’t very useful without the relationships that create good PR. “ Public relations is all about managing the perception and reputation of the brand as a whole. ” (PR Matters page 71)
Justin goes into how to create relationships with a plethora of influencers such as the press and media, bloggers, other churches, the community, and thought leaders.
You want to provide these groups as much value as you can and meet their needs to generate good public relations. And Justin dives deep into providing value for each of these groups individually.
Social Media and Content
The next few chapters of the book focus on building public relations throughout your church social media interactions.
What do you post? How do you engage? And more importantly, how do you respond to “the haters?”
Justin lays it all out to make it easy to build your own unique strategy for your church. He also goes the extra mile to provide examples to draw inspiration from. So if you’re like me and need firm direction you’ll appreciate the extra attention these chapters provide.
There’s also a helpful section on repurposing your church content to further build up your PR plan and remove the headache of having to create original content every day.
The book ends with the steps to take to prepare and respond to a crisis. This is for when the storm hits hard and everything starts to come crashing down.
This is the where the gold of the book is.
The key is planning. And Justin gives you all the steps for developing and maintaining an effective Crisis Management Plan:
- Form a Crisis Communications Team
- Document a Plan
- Anticipate Common Crisis Scenarios
- Stay Informed
- Keep It Updated
The book closes with a Ready-To-Use Crisis Plan that will give you a complete communications plan that you can copy and use at your own church. Included is a communications plan, crisis management policies and procedures, an active crisis worksheet, and crisis checklist.
So Is This Book Worth Reading?
PR Matters provides a stunning introduction into what PR is and why it matters to the church. No one is immune from a crisis, and PR Matters gives you a structure to put in place similar to insurance. You hope you never use it, but you’ll be thankful if you need it.
So yeah, in short, this book needs to be part of your church like your health insurance needs to be part of your benefits package.
As far as getting through the book Justin has made the structure and presentation very easy to read. Every chapter only takes about 5 minutes to read. The chapters are separated into easily digestible pieces that flow logically.
I honestly am not a fan of reading books in general but PR Matters reads more like a collection of blog posts (in a very good way). The chapters are broken up into subsections, each only 3-5 pages long. The paragraphs are neatly organized and spaced. And the font is large enough to read comfortably.
Preparing for a Crisis as PR Matters lays it out will take time and intentionality.
You can implement any subsection of this book like the content and social media strategies and still come out ahead. But to really squeeze all of the value out of this book it will take about 6-12 months to put everything in place.
If you are fortunate to have extra staff or time you may be able to strategize and put the big pieces in place in a few months. But you are a smaller or committee-led church the process may move a little slower. Remember…
This Is An Investment
But like all investments, this one is sure to pay off. You’ll have a procedure in place so no one is scrambling if the time comes. You’ll know how to respond, in what order, and who to engage with.
If you’re super strapped for time, the examples in the book are priceless. Justin gives it to you so you can copy the policy and procedures then make modifications for your church’s specific context.
The only Pastors or leadership who shouldn’t spend their time on this book are those who already have someone with a PR history on staff. I imagine there are fewer than a handful of churches that meet that qualification.
Churches large and small need this book. If not for the crisis management, then for the general PR management. As Justin said, “ It’s not about covering up or spinning the truth. PR is about aligning the truth with the perception of the public so that you can clearly and effectively point people to Christ. ” (PR matters page 13).
PR Matters is worth the small purchase and the time investment to plan out your church’s PR strategy.
You’ll learn what Public Relations really is about, why it matters, the qualities to look for in a PR manager, creating relationships that will improve your PR, using social media and content to spread your message, and Crisis Planning Strategy.
Add on top of that all the examples and templates Justin Dean provides and this book’s value well exceeds its cover price.
Have you read PR Matters? What did you think? Or do you already have a PR plan in place? Let us know in the comments below!
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