I always find it interesting to hear what others in communications or PR think about crisis communications. Here’s a blog post from Phillippe Booremans blog conversationblog.com. I like the title of the PR conference in London he attended: Taking the Drama Out of Crisis.
Here is his post about what folks in London are saying about crisis communications. I especially like his first point: “No vacuum please”; in a crisis situation constant updates are needed – even if no major changes in the situation take place.
What strikes me as missing, and what I continually complain about as missing from most people’s crisis communications plans or thinking about crisis communications, is the lack of attention to people other than the media. There are typically a whole number of people affected by a crisis. Investors, neighbors, employees, community leaders, elected officials, NGOs., etc,. etc. Experience has shown that these people demand information just as much as the media and have very high expectations about you communicating directly with them. The answer that they will get from you that you were way too busy dealing with Katie Couric or Brian Williams simply won’t buy you much.
It reminds me of a story I have repeated often in presentations. A global oil company had a major refinery explosion in the UK. The company was HQ’d in the US and the head of communications believed he was doing a marvelous job of answering all the media inquiries he was receiving. Not only did the newspapers in London complain about inadequate information, two weeks after the event the company got around to opening its email. (the communicators were busy, you see) It had a number of emails from neighbors near the plant who had emailed the company right after the explosion and fire asking if they should evacuate. Those people expected (and one might even say deserved) fast, direct, and straight up information from the company. Hearing that the company was too busy dealing with the media simply would not square with them as it would not with you.
Every company or organization facing major crises needs to have a way not only of filling that vaccuum by providing a constant flow of information to important stakeholders other than the media. Some are doing it and doing very well. It is the standard. No matter what side of the pond you are on.