Some of the most interesting discussions I’ve had lately with others in this field have had to do with approval processes. A few things are clear: almost any approval process is going to slow down your crisis communications. Almost any slow down in your crisis communications is going to cause severe–if not fatal–problems.
As an example, I very much enjoyed a conversation with the emergency management folks from the National Capital Region (via Google Hangout) as I was able to participate in their conference on social media in emergency management. I presented the NanoNews video, then we had a conversation. And a major element of that was around the approval process. I was surprised and very pleased to hear that some, if not many, were implementing some pretty significant changes to approvals and that these were working.
We had one huge advantage at that conference in talking about approvals: Deputy Commission John Daley from the Boston Police Department was one of the speakers. Being one of many who were following Twitter during the manhunt in Boston, I was shocked to see that the Twitter report of the capture came within moments after the actual capture. How did they do it? Well, it was Deputy Commission Daley himself who was tweeting at that moment.
So, answer number 1 in improving your approval process is to have the person who has to approve the messages do the tweeting. Problem solved.
Of course, if you go to them and they say, I can’t do that, I’m far too busy, first you should point out that Deputy Commission Daley was probably quite busy too that night, but in retrospect given the high regard given the police following this capture and excellent communications, what might he have been doing that was more important. But, if there is still resistance, then say, fine. I’ll tweet. But I’m parking right next to you and not moving when things are really happening so I can punch in the words and you can say OK.
Even more recent conversations suggest that this approach may very well give communicators some important opportunities to overcome the approval problem.
There’s another strategy, and this too was discussed at the National Capital Region conference. Separate facts from messages. There is absolutely no reason why the top dogs should have to approve the release of every little detail. Delegation of authority has to occur somewhere. I think it should occur at all event and response facts leaving organizational messaging to the full approval process. Usually there is more time allotted for messaging relating to sentiment, apologies, intentions, commitments, investigations, blame and the like. What everyone is looking for when things are happening is what are the basic facts on the ground. Here, delegation should allow a strong verification and release.
I’m most interested in hearing any other approaches to solving the approval process problem. Let me know what’s working for you.