By Brian Gray

It’s not a question if your organization will have a crisis, but rather when it will happen. So best be prepared in advance to handle whatever comes.

That was the message of Katherine Kerr Kubatzky, APR, during a breakout session on crisis communications during the Religion Communications Council and Associated Church Press joint conference in Chicago.

Kerr Kubatzky, who owns Polaris Non-Profit Communications in Georgetown, TX, described a crisis as “anything that threatens the operations and /or reputation of an organization.” The crisis need not be a world-shaking event. On a local level it could be prompted by inappropriate behavior, vandalism, an accident or assault or by natural causes such as a flood, hurricane or fire.

Regardless of the origin, attendees were encouraged to develop a six-step communications plan that begins with assembling a response team and then gathering information, developing talking points, designating a spokesperson, identifying stakeholders and disseminating information.

The speaker worked through each of the steps to help listeners determine who should be on the response team. This team is not a permanent assignment. Membership will vary depending on the crisis. The team then helps determine a spokesperson and equips that person with three key speaking points. Those points should address what happened, express cooperation and concern, if appropriate, and set a date for the next update.

After expanding on each of the six points in a plan, Kerr Kubatzky introduced what she termed “the drill.” Each table of attendees drew a “crisis” from a bag and had time to work through a worksheet to determine the responses to each of the six steps in the communications plan. A table representative reported results to the entire audience.


Brian Gray, APR is the retired editor of Momentum Magazine.

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