What is in a name? Well quite a lot really particularly when we are trying to develop a shared understanding of things. It is not as simple as it sounds to navigate the way through what is a crisis, what makes a critical incident and what we can call an emergency.
When I am talking to businesses and organisations it is essential to be able to understand how they view the situation. Their personal experiences will have shaped what they think and the threshold they have for risk. That is where it has to start. If we are going to be able to deal with crisis effectively we need to be talking about risks, risk management and risk mitigation.
Don’t get me wrong. Some years ago if you had asked me about risk registers, business continuity plans and scenario planning I would probably have rolled my eyes. These things were all required but not really that interesting when there was more creative communication work to do. But they are essential in these uncertain times if we are ever going to be able to get to do that creative work we love.
Communication teams need to have a discussion about the risks they face and to come to an agreement about what constitutes a risk for them. It may be that certain aspects of the business highlight greater risks, or that the approach to communication itself has risks attached. We need to see both, understand both and then make plans for both.
With my policing background there was a very clear explanation of what a crisis would be, what constituted a critical incident and that helped to ensure a clear understanding across teams. We need to have that discussion with the top team to develop our own definitions that are shared.
Moving on from the pandemic is going to bring new challenges. Meeting them will mean an even greater focus on having those structures and processes in place from risk to business continuity and crisis management. We need to establish the boundaries and how our businesses and organisations are going to be able to weather the storms of uncertainties that lie ahead.