If the past year has shown us anything it is that crises can last for some time and that recovery can take years. This really matters to communicators who need to be able to work through the crisis and build for the future.
It is clear that we all have to find ways to continue to work, live and operate even when we are living through a crisis. We need to create the environment that allows us to be creative but also to be alert to problems, issues and risks. It may sound problematic but it can be done if we look at things in a different way. We have to look at the whole lifespan of a crisis.
Crisis communication plans usually focus their attention on being ready to respond swiftly and effectively when something happens. It is those first moments that we put at the centre of the testing and exercising of plans. But the days, weeks, months and even years that follow are something we don’t think about and probably have no plans for.
Long-running crises zap our strength. They put us under continuous pressure but there are ways we can develop, strengthen our resilience and build for the future. It starts with understanding risk management and the key role that communication has in identifying problems before they happen. It means we need to have crisis communication plans ready to be used and that we know what we, and colleagues, should do.
There are simple things that we can do to bring crisis communication into our day to day PR operation. It means we are keeping a close watch on issues and incidents so we are ready to move when we need to.
In the same way that we used to carry out fire drills when we used to be in offices, we should also have crisis communication drills where we ensure everyone knows what to do and is pushed to respond quickly. If we have these structures and processes in place then we will be able to exercise some control over uncontrollable circumstances.
We all need to build our analytical understanding and capability so we can monitor social media and other networks, gather data and feedback and turn it into something meaningful. Alongside this there is a need to build influencing skills so that you can appropriately challenge the operational response. Communicators should be working to be a strategic and tactical advisor during a crisis.
Training should be in place to ensure individuals and the team are ready to deal with risk, crisis, resilience and recovery. We may be living through a significant crisis with Covid-19 but there is still a lot to be done. Debriefs and reviews should be giving us the information we need going forward. Learning the lessons of what worked and didn’t work today will help us tomorrow. If you are interested there are 10 recommendations I identify in a report published in late December 2020 called Living with Crisis. You can get a copy by emailing email@example.com
Dealing with a crisis is something that all communicators need to be able to do and must be comfortable with. It will always be a time of intense pressure but with some thought, planning and preparation this can be lessened.
Bringing the day-to-day management of crisis communication into our work will be the focus of the first training session with Westco. It will take you from understanding risk management and identification through to the road to recovery with practical tips and advice that you can quickly put into action. I hope to see you there.
Author: Amanda Coleman