Be Prepared

Four years ago this month, our city was rocked by events we still struggle to understand. On that day our quiet little city lost some of its innocence and we were faced with the hard reality that tragedy can strike anywhere.

Around the world, 24-hour cable news reminds us on a daily basis that the world is changing. Safety is precious and cannot be taken for granted.

What this is teaching us is that organizations need to be ready for the unplanned and the impossible.  The “it can’t to me” type of planning that many public and private businesses have banked on may not be okay anymore.  It’s key for employers and employees to know what to do in times of crisis. That’s where planning and preparation come into effect.

The need for crisis communication may also be needed in other organizational scenarios like hacking issues, a flood of social media complaints, executives who act out of line and make (negative) headlines, or any other situation that could damage an organizations reputation or interrupt business as usual.

A key part of the planning for any potential crisis is knowing what and how to communicate.  The rationale is to provide simple, effective and practical tools to all those who may require them that will assist in the response to a situation posing a crisis or potential crisis.  When an organization works through a crisis on an ad-hoc basis it runs unnecessary risk. Developing a crisis communications will help to eliminate the guesswork and ensure organizations and their staff are confident as to their role.

When an emergency occurs, the need to communicate is immediate. If business operations are disrupted, customers will want to know how they will be impacted. Regulators may need to be notified and local government officials will want to know what is going on in their community. Employees and their families will be concerned and want information. Neighbours near the event may need information—especially if they are threatened by the incident. All of these “audiences” will want information before the business has a chance to begin communicating.

A business must be able to respond promptly, accurately and confidently during an emergency in the hours and days that follow. Many different audiences must be reached with information specific to their interests and needs. The image of the business can be positively or negatively impacted by public perceptions of the handling of the incident.

It’s important for businesses to begin thinking about their preparedness. If you’re unsure of your ability to manage crisis, reach out to experts that can assist you through it. Begin thinking about audiences and how each will be informed and engaged. Being unprepared is not an acceptable excuse. Make sure you’re ready with a plan and continue to hope we never need to use it.

Mike Randall is a communications and engagement specialist and Managing Partner with Portfolio Solutions in Moncton.  He can be reached at mike@weareportfolio.com