When conducting site assessments for our education clients across the country, we are always gratified to see that many, if not most, have comprehensive emergency plans in place that typically only need minor adjustments or additions. What we do not see as often are equally comprehensive crisis response plans. For those of you who have worked with SEC before, you know we emphasize the importance of planning. Emergency plans can help protect people and property, but they do not help to protect other important things, like your reputation or the confidence that stakeholders have in you. That is why having a crisis response plan is important as well.
Because crisis response is such an expansive subject, over the next weeks, we will be providing guidance on one specific and critical component of this subject, crisis communication. In doing so, we will be focusing on the following three key elements:
- Understanding the differences between emergency and crisis. Although often used interchangeably, an emergency and a crisis are not always cojoined. A crisis can occur without emanating from an emergency and vice versa. As a result, it is important to have unique plans, one for crisis and one for emergency.
- Realizing the importance of how the decisions that are made during the initial stages of a crisis can influence the impact and outcome of the crisis. The decisions you make, the actions you take, and the words you use during the first hours of a crisis can have a profound effect on the situation. One of the important challenges that is commonly present during the initial stages of a crisis is that information relating to a crisis is often incomplete or inaccurate. Although you may experience a desire to communicate quickly, it is important not to let speed overtake accuracy.
- Determining who the key audiences you need to communicate are, deciding on what they need to know, when do they need to know it, who will be doing the communicating, and in what manner will it be communicated. Audiences can typically be broken up into two groups: internal and external. Internal groups should take priority when communicating about the situation.
Please look for additional messages this month as we will get into greater detail on how having effective communication strategies in place can help you navigate and minimize the impact of a potential crisis you may face.