A world away from Manchester, England I found myself sat listening to the head of communications for NATO talking about dealing with a crisis this week. It was one of those pinch me moments to make sure I was really there.
Crisis communication is fairly universal because at the heart it is like all communication it is about human responses. There were a number of important messages from the event that I thought were worth sharing.1. Prepare for the unexpected. Oana Lungescu from NATO highlighted what I have experienced. The key is whatever you prepare for realise that when a crisis hits it is extremely unlikely that it will be what you have planned for. This means you need to be flexible in your approach and preparations.
2. She also said that you need to have strong relationships in place to be able to respond to a crisis. This means having a strong relationship with key leaders so that you can call upon them and react quickly. But it also means you need to have relationships in place across the organisation so that you can call upon them at a time of crisis.
3. Oana also stated that tackling misinformation needs a confident and positive approach to who you are and what you do. If you do it right you can effectively bust some myths.
4. Communication by committee doesn’t work. When Oana talked of her work she says she was in important meetings to understand the discussion so that she is aware of the boundaries. Consultation only happens to the right people at the right time.
5. Merlin Koene, partner at FischerAppelt, said crisis communication was really about crisis leadership. The key is how it is led and managed and this includes within the world of communication. Senior people in the business all need to recognise this and understand their responsibilities.
6. There was another gem from Merlin when he said ‘trust is a business metric’. Trust is a critical asset to the organisation and to how it responds to a crisis. How do we ensure leaders recognise the importance of planning and preparing and involving communication? We have to demonstrate the impact on the business if we aren’t able to maintain trust. People move on and the brand capital will be diminished. That is why communication matters and should be prioritised.