by Geoff Gillette
Whether you are a business owner, government employee, or run a non-profit, if you have customers or followers who rely on you for information a key part of any strategic planning is having an emergency communications plan.
Why do you need a plan and what does it do?
When people think of terms like "emergency" or "disaster," their minds may immediately go to big budget Hollywood disaster films like “2012” or “The Day After Tomorrow.”
But the world doesn’t have to be ending in order for there to be an emergency situation. Take, for instance, this past weekend when Sony’s Playstation Network was hacked. For hours users couldn’t get access to the network functions, and had nothing beyond a 404 “page not found” message to inform them.
Given that Sony is a tech company, it would seem to naturally follow that they would do everything they can to communicate with the MILLIONS (5+ million on Twitter) of people using their product. At the very least they’d be keeping their users as updated as possible and would be empathizing with the frustrations of people who wanted to spend their weekend time gaming, but were unable.
Instead their Twitter feed over the hours-long outage consisted of two tweets:
Neither of those tweets thanked people for their patience or acknowledged the inconvenience. No empathy whatsoever. This shows either a lack of any sort of understanding of how people react in an emergency situation or a lack of emergency planning.
An emergency communications plan doesn’t have to be a 100-page document that requires a PhD in marketing to understand (much like a social media policy). Let’s look at the basic elements of a good communications plan.
To get a good look at how emergency communications can be done well, and with only a few people responsible for getting the messaging out, look at how the local and county government handled the recent Napa earthquake.
In his blog, emergency communications expert Kerry Shearer talked to the folks in Napa responsible for responding to the quake, some of whom had to deal with the situation from home due to the quake keeping them off of the streets.
People in Napa County were able to stay updated, and had a good sense for what their local government was doing for them in the wake of this disaster. In addition, there was empathy for the victims and concern about restoring services as soon as possible.
So right now you’re saying that an earthquake is a bit more dramatic and important than somebody hacking a gaming console. And you’re right. But the same rules apply regarding communication, it’s just different economies of scale. In both cases there were service interruptions. It’s just how they were handled that was different.
Having a solid emergency communications plan, methods for delivering information and having good messaging all help build confidence in your brand and trust among customers and user groups.
People in Napa County are likely feeling a certain level of trust and confidence in their leaders. Sony users might be wondering how much the Xbox One will be selling for this weekend.
Does your company or organization have an emergency communications plan? Have you ever had to use it? Let us know in the comments.