Crisis communication seems to be something that I think about on a weekly basis. After almost 20 years in police communication there is rarely a month goes by when there isn’t some form of emergency or critical incident. It is part of the day-to-day work and something you come to accept.
But it is not just something that emergency service communicators should be thinking about. All communicators must be ready and able to respond no matter what happens and when it happens.
I had the opportunity of speaking to a group of apprentices at the well-known Juice Academy in Manchester. They train social media apprentices who work for a whole range of businesses and organisations. We have taken part in the past and have had the benefit for some time of a young and skilled social media officer. Myself and my senior digital officer explained about how we deal with crisis communication online to give them some food for thought.
The key is to recognise that there are more similarities than differences in how we all can and should approach managing a crisis. Watching what is happening, how others respond and when it works and when it doesn’t should be something we all do. I have said many times that it is a career defining moment when the crisis hits and often it may be the only time you face one in your working life.
One of the main questions that the apprentices had was how you can keep up with the massive flow of information, comment and conversation that happens on social media. The answer is in short you can’t in the first few moments and hours but then a few well-chosen words then may make all the difference. As soon as you can then you need to be listening, responding and speaking directly to people needing help through social media.
It was interesting to take part in tonight’s #Commschat Twitter chat on the same subject of crisis communication. It sparked some useful discussion about approaches to take, points to consider and how to manage the overwhelming social media noise that happens. Again, there was a consensus about the importance of planning, preparing, remembering to communicate with staff as a priority and ensuring speed, honesty and transparency.
Crisis communication may not be your daily business but it has to be important for us all as we never know where or when the next one may appear.