‘Sell’ senior management on the importance of your crisis communication plan
It is not easy to get senior management to listen to communicators about the importance of crisis communication plans. Quite often, executives will perceive crises and emergencies only in terms of an operational response (“put the fire out and return to full operations ASAP”). This is an extremely frustrating attitude to encounter. Those executives will need to be convinced of the impact on the organization’s operations and therefore its profitability before they take full notice of your communication plan. (In a government agency the discussion would need to be about the impact on efficiency and the government’s attitude to a public shambles.)
A great crisis communication plan is only as good as the extent to which it is implemented. Here are some ideas to get senior management to respect your crisis communication and support its implementation:
- Be an ambassador of communication. Every person in your organization involved in emergency management should know your first name and face. Meet the emergency-procedures planners informally and ask them how they think better communication with key stakeholders would help them achieve their mission.
- Inform senior managers of clear objectives for communication in a crisis. When many emergency response planners think of ‘communication’ they tend to think of two-way radios or other forms of telecommunication. It might be better to use terms like ‘stakeholder information’ or ‘public communication’ in a crisis.
- Tell senior managers how the overall response and recovery operation is more effective with an investment in crisis communication activities. In fact, poor crisis communication could destroy the organization.
- Always ensure you have fully completed your allotted tasks in the preparation of a crisis communication plan that you bring to discuss at the committee meeting. Other people can tell if you have rushed your preparation or if you have neglected parts of it, so they will lose respect if you have failed to honor your commitments.
- Since most executives are busy with their day-to-day activities, they tend to put off the time needing to be spent on emergency and crisis response activities. You can take the initiative and systematically arrange meetings with each of them to discuss the emergency response plan and the important communication role.
- There are many high-profile examples you can cite of good and bad examples of crisis communication to back your case. Document each example concisely and circulate the documents in a regularly spaced series, ie a month or two apart, to management to drive your message home to them.
Any concerns about management not understanding the importance of crisis communication must be addressed in the pre-crisis planning phase. You need to be proactive and meet with the emergency response planners now. Show them your competence and expertise. Be energetic. Set your own time aside for thinking through and documenting for your reference any action points. Act promptly on those action points.