As with many things, we see crisis communication a little differently here in Australia. In North America and Europe, the focus often centers on active shooter incidents, potential terrorist attacks, and natural disasters. Those are very important elements to control anywhere in the world. The risk is focusing on these issues to the detriment of other critical threats to businesses, or any other type of organization.
For example, we see many businesses without robust continuity plans in case of serious injury or death of executives or key staff. Even worse, they have no contingency arrangements in place to alert and notify the organization to handle succession, protect documentation, contact stakeholders, or manage the media.
It is not enough to address tactical issues, such as an immediate situation requiring police or fire response, or strategic issues, meaning emergency preparedness and after-event recovery operations. There is another phase that is often overlooked, built around business continuity, which links all of these elements into a much more cohesive, coherent whole.
Three Critical Issues
Our experience shows that the lack of vision comes down to a small number of very understandable situations, each a basic part of human nature. We address these fundamentals within the norm of Australian business culture, but the root causes should strike a powerful resonance within every organization, everywhere.
The first issue is complacency. Even organizations that operate in obvious high-risk environments have the tendency to believe that "it," whatever "it" may be, isn't going to happen to them. It takes a catastrophic incident to teach management otherwise, and the organization may well not survive that awakening.
The second cause for avoidance centers around cost. It's not easy to build a truly comprehensive plan build around both emergency preparedness and crisis communication. These efforts do not contribute as directly to core business needs as other operations more closely tied to profit and loss – or budget management in governmental or non-profit entities. This belief is a false economy, but one that is all too easy to accept.
The third reason is a false feeling of security, often fostered by the belief that insurance coverage will pay for recovery. Insurance may help with many cost issues related to liability and recovery, but it has its limits. More to the point, it does nothing to assist with continuity or crisis management, and can take many months to be realized.
Bringing it All Together
We see crisis communication as being more than doing the little pieces well – planning, alerting, and responding. It's about putting all of these elements together into a comprehensive program that operates across all eventualities, and all levels of the organization. It takes a greater effort to make it happen.
On the other hand, it is less expensive than having to look at employees and investors after the fact, and having no answer when asked, "What happened? Why didn't we know what to do? What happens next?"
Our business is predicated on helping organizations understand the seriousness of their exposure, and guiding them to this type of comprehensive solution. We partnered with Blackberry's AtHoc specifically because they have the only crisis communication platform that fully supports our business-drive, broad-based, holistic approach.
Your organization is almost certainly thinking too small when it comes to emergency management and crisis communication. We strongly encourage you to ask your vendors – whether Briggs Communications, Blackberry and AtHoc, or anyone else – what it is that that you still need to do.
Your future may well depend on being able to see beyond a narrowly defined challenge that needs resolution, and adopting a broader approach that helps ensure your organization's survival and success, no matter what is thrown its way.