Crisis Communications: The aim of crisis communication is to achieve continuity of information flow under crisis, disaster or event driven circumstances, by responding quickly, efficiently, effectively and in a premeditated way to ensure a co-ordinated response.
Purpose of Crisis Communications: Help people cope, make risk/benefit decisions, and begin to return their lives to normal. Provide the public with information to make the best possible decisions within nearly impossible time constraints and to accept the imperfect nature of choice.
If crisis struck today, are you ready to talk about it?
“When written in Chinese, the word "crisis" is composed of two characters- one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.” John Fitzgerald Kennedy
The Opportunity is Now! Establish relationships that will be critical to managing any crisis situation. Share contact information with other agencies before an incident occurs. Place contact info in Emergency Response Plan.
Crisis Communications Plan: Name spokespersons in your Emergency Response Plans and designate backups Ensure that your organization agrees and plans for their absence from their other duties Provide training and opportunity
“If the media can communicate the news the instant it happens, crisis communications dictate that a company must be prepared to respond almost as fast. The inability to communicate your message skillfully during a crisis can prove fatal.” Steven Fink, Crisis Management
The First 24 Hours: Information can change at a very fast pace. Set up your work area nearby the IC Team. With the right preparation, and perspective, you will be ready to provide the best possible information available. Occasionally pause and keep an eye on the big picture.
Be There! You can’t manage the media from your office. Get to the scene - be visible and available. Don’t allow information voids; keep communication flowing. Monitor what’s being said. Deal with rumors quickly. Minimize speculation.
Speak with One Voice! One central spokesperson – lead agency. Ensure everyone involved in response knows who the lead spokesperson is. Make this person very accessible. Engage other agency spokespersons Strive for consistency in what is said and how it is said – share and approve messages. Make sure there’s a clear chain of command
What Does the Media Expect? Need for speed – you need to be prepared to issue a statement with one hour or less of the onset of the incident. This is even more important with the onset of the social media craze. One fatal flaw is that sometimes organizations don’t want to say anything until they know everything. Something is better than nothing!
Anticipate key questions before they get asked. Get the details…attend all calls and briefings. Understand what you can, and cannot say. Don’t speculate or speak for someone else, Only use confirmed facts. Be fair to all media agencies.
Media beating at your door? Have a prepared first statement written in your plan Generic statement that can be adapted for any situation It will buy you time and allow you to prepare your next statement
First Statement: Date: Time: Approved by: “This is an developing situation and we are working on getting as much information as possible. While we work to get your questions answered as quickly as we can, I want to tell you that what we can confirm right now is: At approximately (time) a (description of what happened). At this point, we do not know... (injuries, damage, evacuations).
We are responding to the....and are being assisted by (police, fire, etc.) The situation is (under/not yet under) control and we are working to contain the scene to determine what has happened. We will continue to gather information and release it to you as soon as possible. I will get back to you within (time frame – 2 hours or less) to give you an update. As soon as we have more confirmed information, it will be provided. We ask for your patience as we respond to this emergency. First Statement.docFirst Statement.doc
Don’t go Quiet Keep communicating even if the status quo is unchanged Monitor media stories and websites Be proactive in your communication Follow-up on Facebook/Twitter feeds
Social Media Twitter is a phenomenal real-time communication channel - make alerts and be continually proactive. Facebook is an excellent two-way medium to post frequent updates and monitor what people are thinking. Keep updated and current.
Be First: If the information is yours to provide by organizational authority—do so as soon as possible. If you can’t—then explain how you are working to get it. Be Right: Give facts in increments. Tell people what you know when you know it. Tell them what you don’t know, and tell them how long it may take to gather relevant information later. Be Credible: Tell the truth. Do not withhold to avoid embarrassment or the possible “panic” that seldom happens. Uncertainty is worse than not knowing— rumors are more damaging than hard truths.
Express Empathy: Acknowledge in words what people are feeling—it builds trust. Promote Action: Give people things to do. People want to help. Show Respect: Treat people the way you want to be treated—the way you want your loved ones treated— always—even when hard decisions must be communicated.
When all is said and done: Take the opportunity to bring your crisis communications team together in person and dissect your organization’s crisis response. What worked? What didn’t? What lessons were learned? What can you improve next time?