Don’t have nightmares

If you have ever sat with colleagues and tried to imagine the mishaps that might befall your organisation you will know what a deeply unsettling process crisis communications planning can be.

You dredge from your memory the dreams that suddenly woke you in the night and left you sweating with fear and asking yourself questions that began “what if?”

What if a company vehicle runs off the road and kills people? What if one of your staff is accused of a serious crime? What if through no fault of your own someone in your care is harmed?

The more people involved in the organisation the more varied, unpredictable and worrying the possibilities are and the harder it is to control events.

All this may sound like an exercise in paranoia. And you might say that there’s enough of other people’s bad news around without having to invent any of your own. But the process of identifying these possible events and then deciding in advance how your organisation should behave if and when they arise is rational and also in the end will help you sleep at night.

There is one element of disaster planning that tends to be ignored. This becomes terrifyingly obvious the moment you glance out of your office window and see a line of television satellite trucks parked outside the gate. If you haven’t prepared for handling the media your day is about to get worse.

We at Deep South Media are increasingly working with clients in developing Emergency Response Protocols. These are detailed processes for communicating with the media, the public, staff and other interested parties. Senior managers know they must turn to these filed when disaster strikes.

With an ERP in place clients can concentrate on dealing with the core of the crisis and know they have a system already worked out for keeping the media informed and the public reassured.

In this bonkers world of hyper-communications, this system also involves closely monitoring those cathedrals of false rumour and misinformation, Twitter and Facebook.

It doesn’t make the crisis go away but it can stop it becoming much deeper. So take a long, cold look at what might go wrong, and as they used to say on Crimewatch “Don’t have nightmares. Do sleep well.”

– GARETH WEEKES, Deep South Media.