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Crisis Communications Tips for Business Continuity

By Matt Donahue | Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

How important is day to day communications within your company/firm? If an incident or disaster occurred today, how would your organization respond? Do you have a team or group designated to develop messages for both internal (employees, vendors, third parties, building management) and external (public, employee families, media) contacts?  Have they practiced? When the pressure is on, is your organization prepared if a disaster or event suddenly puts your firm under the microscope with an onslaught of internal/external calls, questions, requests, emails, social media messages or media requests?

Crises and disasters continue to happen across borders and industries. Let’s not forget some of the more recent large scale disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, Typhoon Haiyan, Deepwater Horizon, Fukushima, Hurricane Sandy, and, of course, the ongoing major data breaches, just to name a few. That list doesn’t include more common events that may not make the major news networks such as utility failures, office fires, and systems outages. Smaller events like previously mentioned can cause minimal to significant disruption to business operations. This is why developing and practicing a variety of communications is vital in an organization’s response to an incident.

Some of these events can be predicted in advance, giving an organization time to make decisions, analyze other organization’s responses, consider impacts, and communicate a message or action. Sometimes events are sudden, such as an earthquake or active shooter. These events require immediate actions, decisions, and communications to be made. In either case - an immediate or delayed event - communication is critical to demonstrating proper leadership and providing employees with proper direction, especially if the event is centered specifically on your organization. 

A recent example of effective communication and leadership occurred during the Boston Marathon Bombing press conference in April 2013. The briefing featured representatives from all the involved parties – sign of unified and organized communication strategy. Regardless of the amount of information disseminated, the listeners likely felt comfort knowing everyone was on the same page. In this case, the chief of the Boston Police Department, the Mayor, the Governor, State Police, MBTA Police, FBI, and Watertown Police prepared statements and answered questions to effectively communicate the ongoing situation to the public.

How important is your company’s reputation? Would poor communication to employees, clients, investors, the public, and the media impact your reputation - especially if your organization is at the forefront of a major event? Signs of poor communication typically include disorganization, conflicting reports, inaccurate predictions, information vacuums, insincerity, and confusing information.  Communication is vital in almost every aspect of one’s personal and professional life and the same can be said for companies and firms. In general it’s people and companies that can effectively communicate to their audience that are perceived to be more organized and appealing.

Here are some tips to help with your firm’s communication:

  • Have an executive appointed group: 3 or 4 individuals prepared to speak, email, message, etc. on behalf of the firm in the event of an incident.

  • Keep it simple. Don’t over complicate the message. Make it to-the-point and easy to understand.

  • Create a schedule for information briefings if the event is ongoing. If you are not giving information, people will search out less credible sources or make it up.

  • Know your audience. Who will be receiving this message? Does it have the right tone for the situation?

  • Don’t be afraid to seek help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or assistance from local agencies or even rival companies, depending on the situation. Incidents can happen to any organization. You may be surprised who will come to your aid.


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