On Sunday it will be a day of reflection and remembering the 22 people who lost their lives in the Manchester Arena terrorist attack and the many, many people who were affected by what happened. It is hard to think that five years has gone by as I can remember the details of that night as clear as if it had been yesterday.
The initial call and the quickly dawning realisation that this was something so serious. I was thinking about all those who were caught up in what had happened as I drove into work. The journey seemed to last a lot longer as my mind went through all the things that needed to be done the moment I arrived in the office. There was a lot that needed to be done and in the speed you could lose the focus on what really mattered.
What we were dealing with was the most terrible moment in people’s lives. It was an horrific and brutal attack and things would not be the same again for many. Care and attention to detail was critical as was making sure that any communication prioritised talking about the people affected by what had happened. It is what transformed my approach to crisis communication, and is what drives me to try and improve what organisations do when the worst happens.
It is hard to find the positive in such a brutal and horrific situation but there are amazing foundations and work that have been set up in memory of those who lost their lives Figen Murray has tirelessly campaigned for Martyn’s law. The Together Forever Trust supports young people in memory of Chloe and Liam, and the Megan Hurley Foundation is doing similar work to support others. Such work is a began of light and hope in the darkness that descended on 22 May 2017.
My wish from this terrible situation is that organisations and communicators take another look at their crisis communication plans. Check whether they are really focusing on the right things. Look at where your support to those affected is. Read Lucy Easthope’s book on the aftermath of disasters and the impact on people. Spend a little longer considering whether you have the right words to use before you speak about any issue or incident that affects people. Be more human.
My heart will be with all those families and friends who lost loved ones as they face a difficult weekend. Quiet contemplation will be my approach to the anniversary. I will light a candle as I have every year and will remember them.