Information has a currency within organisations and businesses. It is often a challenge to communicators to break through this area of control if they are going to be effective. We have all seen when those at the top of an organisation hold onto the details that they have refusing or being unwilling to involve others. This may be acceptable some times but when you are dealing with a crisis it is a damaging position.
In responding to a crisis you need to have as much information about the situation as possible but more than that you need to be sharing it. The team brought together to develop the response need to have all the facts at the current time in front of them. Only when that happens can you be effective in decision making. Crises emerge and then develop so being really open with the information throughout is essential.
I have spent many years working in policing where some details could not be shared but these occasions should be few and far between. Many times I would push and ask not what could we say but why couldn’t we release the information. Often there is an overly cautious mood that overtakes when pressure appears. It feels easier to say nothing or little than to have to have a conversation. This is why too many times the crisis response never moves out of broadcasting and directive communication.
Like many I will be interested to see how the UK Government narrative develops today. This is an incredibly complex and challenging time coming out of the latest lockdown needs more communication and conversation than less. The announcements today need to start a conversation with people so they understand the proposals, can see how they contribute to it and are able to make suggestions about the way forward. It is not a straightforward announcement. This is why in training I will explain that the first moments of a crisis are the easiest for communication because you are able to broadcast and keep information to just what is known that may be brief. It is the time after that when things become more complicated.
What is clear is that knowledge is not power. It is a commodity that has to be shared throughout the length of a crisis. Shared not just with the trusted advisors who are developing the response but to the public who have suffered because of events. Trust and confidence can be built when there is an openness, a conversation and an understanding of the facts of the situation. In this challenging time of living with a pandemic knowledge has never been more important to us all.