Crisis communication has changed. It has been evolving significantly in the past five years which seems to be linked to a few things including the developing technology. One of the key changes for me has been the speed by which people move through the stages of the crisis.
Many years ago when people would have had to rely on the media for their updates about the events, and journalists would take quite a while to actually get to the scene and start to report, we could spend a week just explaining what had happened. It was likely to be a few weeks before any criticism would come of the agencies involved to see whether they could have prevented the incident happening.
Yesterday proved once again that the speed by which information is gathered and given, the fact that there are so many sources of news beyond the traditional media, and there is a lot of time to fill means the pace of the events unfolding has been increased. Within a few hours of the horrific attacks in Brussels the observers and reporters were starting to question the response to the incident and also whether agencies could have prevented it happening.
For communicators the speed that they need to operate has rocketed. It means a complete rethink on how crisis communication is approached. To start with the staffing required to successful deal with the situation has increased, and this is not easy to adapt to when teams are being reduced to save money. Media and social media monitoring has become more essential to reviewing and refreshing the communication approach. If you move away from it for 10 minutes you could find that the discussion has moved on and you are running to catch up. You also need to be able to consider how to manage the inevitable criticism which will probably start to hit you within a few hours. That won’t be easy when senior staff are busy trying to deal with the aftermath of the incident.
Alongside the impact of all the technology there is a change in attitudes in society. People’s expectations are huge and they expect agencies to be able to protect them, look after them and keep them safe. There is no room for error or delay and every action and decision taken during the crisis will be picked over for many years to come. This together with the pace of events makes it an even more challenging situation to face.
Despite all the issues and challenges dealing with crisis communication is one of the most rewarding things.