Be prepared! Your ultimate inclement weather comms strategy

by | Dec 12, 2019 | Strategy

For some communities, snow is a mere annoyance. For others, the sight of a flake sends people into a panic. Regardless, you’ll have bad weather at some point. Learn how this FOUR PART inclement weather plan for your church communications reduces stress and saves time. Plus all the steps to cover so you can get the word out to your church. And then enjoy your snow day with less stress!
(Updated Dec. 8, 2020)

Why you need to have an inclement weather plan

When snow or ice strikes, most have a household plan to prepare for the weather. Depending on the forecast and what part of the country you are in, there can be varying levels of personal stress. As a church communicator, you likely have your own household preparations. Layer on top of that communicating changes caused by a storm forecast to hit right before church services. Not an ideal time to develop a clear, concise message and get the word out. Especially if there’s a compressed time element.

Ever hear the expression, “plan for worst and hope for the best”? Inclement winter weather is one of those situations. You’ll need to know who’s a part of this communications plan and their responsibilities. Having a plan detailing where and how you’ll communicate with your church community alleviates much of the stress that can come with these situations.

Part 1: Who does what

Someone in leadership makes the call on how to react to weather conditions in your community. Who is that for your church? It could be the lead pastor or the person in charge of facilities or safety. Whether it’s a single person or a small group, you’ll need to know who makes that decision. Pinpointing who that is gives you a direct line of communication and allows you to put messages into place quickly. No waiting for the word to make its way down the grapevine to you, or having to track down what’s happening.

Be on standby for instructions, and if you have a team helping you, make sure they are too. In the event of a closing, delay, or any service changes, you’ll want to put messages into place across all possible channels. Yes, ALL channels. Website, email, app, text, social media, and local media – whatever you have available – will all need to have someone assigned to posting the weather-related message. The goal here is to reach as many people as possible quickly.

If your church uses or wants to use local media to announce closings or delays, you’ll typically need to be registered. Make sure you’re set-up, that everything with your account is current, and understand the process well before those snowflakes start to show up on the 7-day forecast.

Part 2: Create ready-to-go statements, so you don’t have to wordsmith on the fly

Weather can be weird and unpredictable. A church communicator’s job is stressful enough! Having clear, concise text or template eases that stress. You’ll want to consider all of the possibilities and have statements ready to go (and approved if needed). Knowing what to say allows you to be confident in moving quickly to communicate with your church and community.

Communicate clearly for safety

Delays or changes require more thought to think through than cancellations. Cancellations are the easiest – no one is coming in! The campus is closed! Any change from the norm requires clear communication, as safety is of the utmost concern.

Your church “voice” likely has a specific tone to it. Friendly, polite, etc. Now is a time to set that aside. Use an active voice, a command sentence structure, and remove unnecessary details. If you’re not sure what that is, well, that was it! Action verb + necessary details only.

Consider which of the following statements is stronger:

When coming from Main Street, you’ll want to use the second entrance to the parking lot, which has less of a hill. Our safety leader is asking that all guests not use the main entrance, but enter in through the side door.

OR

Use the second entrance to the parking lot off Main Street. Enter in through the side door. We want to keep everyone safe as you come in for worship on Sunday morning!

The second example follows the structure of action verbs + necessary details only. 

Detail will vary by channel. You can be more detailed on your website or email. On social or text, give the highlights and include a website link where they can find more information. “9 am service canceled! Come for the 11 am service if it’s safe for you to do so! Get more information here on where to park and childcare.” 

Anticipate needs on campus and in the community

In developing your messages, think through various scenarios and questions people may have, or have asked in the past.

  • Include information on how to watch services online, and how to give online.
  • Note any changes to childcare or the impact on other meetings or activities scheduled for the day.
  • While the church may be open, some leaders may opt to not offer or scale back on those activities and ministries.

Remember any signage needs as well! If entrances or pathways are closed off, having that marked will help prevent messes and falls. Plot out what’s required, where it’s needed, and who’s responsible for placement. You likely have templates or other mobile signage available – now is a great time to review those messages. 

Within your community, inclement weather can mean power outages, flooding, or other negatives impacts. Your church can point people to provide (or get) assistance should the worst happen. More than likely, church members will want to help, and you can have direction ready should the worst happen.

Part 3: Communicate all over and on all possible channels

You know what to say – now to get it out there. Remember: the goal is to reach as many people as possible, and quickly. Have a checklist of all possible channels, those responsible for each channel, and their assigned tasks and expectations. State expected timelines, provide those templates, and any necessary talking points. You may need to tweak depending on the circumstances – however, changing a few words is easier than trying to come up with something altogether from scratch!

Prep your congregation on where to look

Before anything even happens, communicate with your church members and regulars where to look for information as the possibility of the first inclement weather event approaches, and then remind if need throughout the season. You can even have a reminder at church if you know far enough in advance. “Looks like we have the potential for snow in the forecast! Look for updates on email/website/Facebook about any weather-related delays or closings.” You should send out an email and post a reminder on social media as well.

Once the decision to delay or close has been made, it’s time to put all of your preparation to work!

Details matter

Post longer, more detailed information on your website. A landing page works well here, especially if you have a complex message.

Focus on keeping your page fast and mobile-ready. No fancy videos, large photos, or special styles that can slow page speed down. In the event of a power outage, mobile may be the only way people have to access information. 

If possible, placing a banner or other prominent placement at the top of your homepage with the link to the landing page works well.

You should provide the same detailed information in an email. No header, nothing fancy. Just plain text detailing instructions. 

Use all your available channels

Every other channel at your disposal can both communicate the big idea, closed or delayed, and serve as support to point people back to your website. With text and social media messages, you can use shorter posts that state the situation (closed, delayed, service changes), and to go to your website for more information.

With more than 90% of text messages opened, texting can be a great way to let people know about church delays or closings. Along with all of the other applications as well! Check out Text In Church and see how it can help your church better connect. By using this affiliate link, you’ll receive a no-risk, 30-day free trial plus an additional 500 text messages. 

Be ready to respond to questions on all of your digital channels – email, social, and texting. As much work as you’ll put into providing the details, you may forget something. Or they may just not read it, and you’ll still need to answer. If you made channel assignments to others on a team, determine who responses to questions so there’s no ambiguity. 

Part 4: Have an inclement weather social media engagement plan

People will be talking about the weather should a storm hit! Watch local news, and your social media feeds for clues as to how the weather is affecting people, good or bad.

If this is the kind of snow that brings people out to enjoy the winter wonderland scene, have fun with it! You can leverage all of this activity to drive engagement on your social accounts. Encourage people to share their fun on your social pages. All of those snow day photos and posts create visibility and high interaction on your page, a necessity for attracting potential visitors!) Engagement is all about driving meaningful interaction on your pages through reactions (loves, wows), conversations, and shares. You can create posts like:

  • asking people to post their snow day fun photos.
  • conducting a poll on favorite snow day activities. (Inside or outside? Sledding or snowmen?)

Not all snow days are fun. Should the weather cause hardship, such as power outages, flooding, etc., be ready to respond by calling the church to take action and serve. You can provide links or other information about local agencies helping those in need. You can also prompt people to check on neighbors, especially the sick and the elderly.

In some areas, both may happen. If that’s the case, balance the two as appropriate for the situation.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

While we’re talking about snow here, really, this plan can work for any inclement weather that would affect your church services. Block off an hour or two and start creating your plan and messages today! By knowing your church’s overall plan of action and communication, you can be prepared and help your church know what to expect when those snowflakes fall this winter. And hopefully, enjoy your own snow day fun without the stress.

Too busy to think through strategies and planning? We can show you the way, give you a solid framework and accelerate your church marketing efforts. Give the team at Firm Foundations Marketing a call. Learn more here

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