Monday, July 25, 2016

Of chaos, the community and crisis communications

Recent headlines and traffic on social networks reveal the gripping and terrifying impact of terror attacks on various communities. It now seems a daily reality. All of this should be a reminder to public safety organizations, commercial building managers and governments, that they need to be prepared to respond from a communications perspective as well as on an operational basis.

We have seen terrible events grip and paralyze a city ...even large ones like Munich. The Bavarian capital was rocked by a shooting rampage in a mall. Whether or not it was inspired by radical extremism or the act of a deranged teen ... the impact on the community is real.

The Munich police maintained a constant stream of info flowing during the incident focusing mostly on what residents should do to stay safe. However, they also shared information that later proved to be false. 

Here's a good read on how they used Twitter. To be honest, I wouldn't have liked to be in their shoes: firmly torn between the need to keep info flowing, to occupy the public space and be seen to do so ... while at the same time verifying every bit of info ...

So, what can organizations do to walk that fine line? What can PIOs do to adopt the right tactics and tone during an incident? 

Understanding the new incident communications imperative that modern PIOs face is a hard task. I wrote this post on the four incident communications imperatives following the mall attack in Nairobi in Kenya a couple of years ago. APPLYING THESE IMPERATIVES IS NOW CRITICAL FOR THE PIO.

Ensuring that your crisis comms planning allows you to meet the requirements of the four imperatives is now a matter of survival ... of not only the reputation of organizations but it could even impact public safety. In some cases, there's a clear gap: 

Aligning the principles of effective crisis comms planning with the new context faced by PIO is a daunting task. But any plan that includes a comprehensive and detailed expression of the FIVE Ps is sure to be on the right track.

Operationalizing a good plan with its Procedures, People, Preparation, Practice and Platforms components is an ongoing endeavour. Including such a plan with every response plan, BCP or COOP is essential is seizing EVERY opportunity to put it in practice during exercises or drills ...

Another useful tool is to run a social convergence audit of your plan to see if your communications during an incident will meet the needs of your different audiences.

I believe that PIOs should be guided by these imperatives reflecting the need for speed, relevance, veracity and engagement.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Running a social convergence audit of your response plan

It's painfully clear that organizations need to be prepared to respond to crises of all kinds and do so immediately. The pressure to react to events within minutes is made more apparent by the widespread use of socially-convergent tools by the public.

In other words, social convergence has changed how crises should be dealt with ... certainly from a communications standpoint. So, how can emergency management organizations, public safety agencies, governments and companies ensure their response and continuity of operations planning takes into account the impact of social networks and mobile devices?

That's where the idea of a socially-convergent audit comes in. This starts with the very basic premise of having every BCP/COOP effort or emergency response plan include a strong crisis communications/emergency info section or even a thorough crisis communications plan.

Other questions include: how is alerting done? how do we let our staff, suppliers, key stakeholders and the public know what's going on? What mobile tools are we using (if any)? Are we maximizing message amplification by using social networks ? 

Another question: is the media our key audience? do we still plan to issue news releases and wait for journalists to interpret our words ... or do we take the lead and talk directly to our audiences (via Twitter ...FB ... Periscope and others ...) ? 

Other topics that should be included in such an audit include: who conducts social listening during the crisis and how is the social "intelligence" fed into the EOC or to senior executives? The new context for PIOs is truly daunting and many organizations have looked at integrating volunteers (such as Virtual Operations Support Teams or VOST) to help. 

Others have integrated the formation of a dedicated social media listening team as part of their EOC ramp up procedures. Operational social listening is now a MUST for any entity responding to a large-scale emergency/incident.

Image result for dallas shooting facebook

Another key topic of the social convergence audit is who has the "keys" to the social network accounts that will be used and what policies guide content, vetting of info, responses and frequency of interactions. An absolute necessity to avoid mistakes.

I'm currently working to adapt the social integration matrix I developed a few years ago to include this audit as part of a set of milestones for progressing through the social convergence continuum.

Stay tuned !