Mobile communication methods allow information to travel faster than ever before. With a camera in everyone’s pocket and instant access to social media sites and apps (the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to name a few), news of an event travels quick. Unfortunately, this social style of news often moves in an uncontrolled manner, with elements being reported and shared with sensationalised content, and without key details or the appropriate context.

Why is ‘Post Incident’ Communication Important?

Regardless of a company’s size, and whether they deal with communications in-house or by outsourcing, they should have a solid plan in place for what, how, and crucially where to disseminate information during or immediately after an incident.

The reality is that today many people consume their news from online social media sources. It’s more important than ever to respond (internally and externally) to incidents quickly, clearly, and on the platforms that people are looking at. Crisis communication should start from the get-go; the longer news is left to travel uncontrolled, the higher the chance of speculation and misinformation which can cost an organisation its credibility, trust and ultimately damage its brand.

Forward Thinking and Planning

After a major incident, things can often be frantic and disorganised. Planning the initial basic lines of communication in advance of a situation arising is key to controlling the message and ensuring misinformation (sometimes referred to as ‘fake news’) is kept to a minimum.

One of the first steps in creating a plan of action for crisis communication is to assemble a team of key people within the company to analyse the risks the company and its employees face. If a company has analysed its risks and is aware of the crises that may arise from them, then it can formulate a plan of response in advance. Having a plan for the shape and method of communication during the frantic environment of a crisis means things can move faster and more efficiently, ensuring the correct message is relayed.

High-level plan:
  1. To assemble a Crisis Communication Team that will make recommendations on appropriate responses.
  2. To factually assess the situation and determine whether a communications response is warranted.
  3. To implement immediate action to:
  •         Identify those parties that should be informed about the situation first
  •         Communicate facts about the crisis.
  •         Minimise rumours
  •         Restore order and/or confidence.

Internal Communication

Communicating with staff and workers after an incident will allow the organisation to ensure everybody is keeping a level-head and understanding the issue in the appropriate context. All employees should be aware of how they can receive information about a developing situation, the frequency of the updates, and what nature they will take.

It’s natural for workers to want to be kept in the loop during a crisis, especially when it directly involves them or their co-workers. Clear chains-of-command should be explained to all staff as well as the importance of consuming information rather than creating it. Most misinformation spread by staff comes with the best of intentions — they want to answer peoples’ questions and put their own mind at ease.

Communication Policy

Having a policy in place for communication during a crisis, particularly focused on social media postings, can help to prevent any confusion or errors between the company’s official lines and the workers own postings.

Focusing on the positives — the things to do — rather than the negatives when creating policy and training the staff on its details is likely to be more beneficial than providing an extensive and heavy list of things not to do. Using safety-based language e.g. “for safety reasons” can also help to reinforce the importance of the policy.

Finally, having a blanket ban on all social media communications is impractical, unlikely to be followed, and possibly illegal. Instead, it’s best to focus training on the nature workers communications may take, teaching them what information is and isn’t ok to share, how to respond to questions, and where to direct people for official information.

How Conserve can help

Providing clear lines of communication, maintaining lists of key people, and training workers on the best communication practices is a complex task; even more so when working with contractors who are not always going to be present and may also be working with other companies with differing plans and policies. Conserve’s contractor management system enables you to keep track of all your contractors, their documentation, and crucially the training they have received.

Contact Conserve today to see how we can help you with online crisis communication.

For more information contact us on +61 2 8883 1501, enquiries@conserve.com.au or subscribe to our newsletter for regular updates.

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