Crisis and emergency communication occupied only a small amount of our time just two years ago. For most, it was a routine, a chore that needed to be reviewed alongside the business continuity plans. Life seemed a lot simpler when we think back to August 2019. The pandemic has changed things for some considerable time ahead. So what can we do to be ready for the uncertainty we are facing?
The first thing must be to ensure that we have robust, up-to-date plans and have taken learning from what was done during the past 18 months. Organisations need to realise that just because they have lived through one crisis does not mean they are automatically ready for what comes next. It requires thought, consideration, and action to keep crisis ready.
Teams need to be trained to identify those risks and issues that may affect the business they are supporting. This summer has shown that we need to expect the unexpected. Climate change has been much talked about but now is being recognised for a crisis that lies ahead. Flooding, wildfires, extreme temperatures are all with us and need to be planned for. But there are other issues on the horizon, from cyber-attacks through to customer criticisms.
You can make a few changes to the way you work to recognise and plan for these risks and keep a focus on the core business at hand. It needs four elements: structures, systems, policies/plans, and culture to be aligned to being crisis ready. It is what many of us thought we had until they were spectacularly put to the test in March 2020. If we are to be resilient to these future pressures, we must make sure we learn, change, implement, and keep each area under review.
We are now at the most critical time in dealing with the pandemic. The main crisis is dwindling, we are facing new challenges, and there is a temptation to try to go back to what things were like before. As communicators, we are juggling existing COVID-19 crisis work, recovery work, business as usual and some attempts to plan for the future.
Many people will feel drained and exhausted, but we need to get used to including crisis, risk, and resilience in our daily working lives. We can do much more to ensure that we have created some certainty in our communication in these uncertain times.
Author: Amanda Coleman
Amanda Coleman has more than 20 years’ experience in crisis communication which includes leading the police communication response to the Manchester Arena terrorist attack in 2017.
Are you communicating the right message in a crisis?
Register for our upcoming two-part Westco Academy 'Crisis communications masterclass' online with Amanda Coleman 18 - 19 August from 10am - 1pm each day.