Media Procedures for Church, District, and Conference Staff
Handling Telephone Calls from Reporters
- Take a written message (don’t transfer to voicemail without taking message)
- Get reporter’s name, media outlet, direct phone #, and deadline
- Ask for topic of story
- Explain that a church spokesperson will return call
- Don’t answer questions yourself
- Be polite, but firm
- Keep a log or written record of media calls
If a representative of the media (e.g. newspaper, TV station, Radio station, magazine) calls or approaches an employee or volunteer and seeks comments or asks questions about an incident of suspected child abuse or suspected vulnerable adult abuse, the employee or volunteer should not provide any comments or answer any questions about the incident. Instead, the employee or volunteer should get the media representative’s name, business title, phone number and e-mail address and respectfully tell him/her that the Director of Communications Ministry will contact him/her as soon as possible. The following response to the media representative should be used:
“The Susquehanna Conference’s Director of Communications Ministry can best respond to your inquiry regarding this matter. If you give me your name, business title, phone number, and e-mail address, I will ask the Director of Communications Ministry to contact you as soon as possible.”
Handling Reports On-site
- Refer questions to pastor, conference communicator, or district superintendent.
- Again, be polite but firm.
- Do not communicate in any way your personal opinion.
- Don’t make any attempt to speak “off the record.”
- Don’t ever respond with “no comment.”
Handling Casual Conversations or Question about a Crisis
- Don’t speculate, repeat unconfirmed information or express personal opinions
- Don’t feel that you are obligated to answer questions
- Do respond with a brief, positive, general statement
Can we give a witness?
How the Church can maintain the integrity of its voice in the media spotlight during times of crisis.
This is a project thesis submitted in candidacy for the degree of Doctor of Ministry by Kathleen Elaine Kind, Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, D.C., May 2012. Rev. Dr. Kind is Superintendent of the Altoona District, Susquehanna Conference, The United Methodist Church.
ABSTRACT: This project came as a result of the author's experience with the press after a mission team from her church was in a terrorist bombing. The author proposes a protocol of things that a pastor or church leader can do before, during, and after a crisis in order for the church to be a witness and maintain the integrity of its voice in the media spotlight during times of crisis. The protocol was designed after conversation with persons who respond to the press professionally as well at the author's personal experience, and was tested against other church's experiences with the press after crises.
NOTE BY JERRY WOLGEMUTH, FORMER DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS, SUSQUEHANNA CONFERENCE: This thesis is a valuable, and very readable describing to help local churches understand the protocol during a response to the public press during a crisis. We are grateful to Dr. Kind for her permission to use this thesis in its entirety.