Friday, March 18, 2011

Disaster in Japan Reminder: The Importance of Crisis Communications

Our thoughts reach out to our friends, families and colleagues in Japan. In difficult times, we all want to try to reach out help. In business, it can sometimes be difficult for organizations to determine when to draw the line between business responsibilities and our human responsibilities. That's one reason why, beyond help and outreach, organizations should use this event as a reminder as to the importance of planning for crisis communications.

Crisis communications is a multi-dimensional organizational challenge. While crisis communications is often viewed through a PR lens with books devoted to PR communications strategy, crisis communications can be more broadly applied to all of the communications that take place during a crisis. Here's an example of some key things to consider from the FEMA web site.
  • Employees: Be prepared to provide employees with information on when, if and how to report to work following an emergency.
    • Set up a telephone call tree, password-protected page on the company website, an email alert or a call-in voice recording to communicate with employees in an emergency.
    • Be clear on how their jobs may be affected.
  • Management: Provide top company executives with all relevant information needed for the protection of employees, customers, vendors and nearby facilities.
  • Public: It may be important to update the general public with calm assurance that all resources are being used to protect workers and the community. Being able to communicate that plans are in place for recovery may be especially important.
  • Customers: Update your customers on whether and when products will be received and services rendered.
  • Government: Tell officials what your company is prepared to do to help in the recovery effort. Also communicate with local, state and federal authorities what emergency assistance is needed for you to continue essential business activity.
  • Other Businesses/Immediate Neighbors: You should be prepared to give competing and neighboring companies a prompt briefing on the nature of the emergency so they may be able to assess their own threat levels.
What this list helps to underscore is that crisis communications includes internal communications, external communications, and so much more. Not only does that mean your PR and communication tools, it could also depend on your customer records from CRM, your social media network, and more. It's also important to keep in mind that, depending on the scope of the disaster that you are trying to address, your access to some or all of these resources might be limited or non-existent.

Did this spark your thoughts? Ideas? Please share your thoughts -- that's a big part of planning.

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