The 4th of July is approaching. It is a day of celebration and a day to honor those who have served and given so much.
Around this time of year, my thoughts always turn to the services. I tend to pay more attention to publications I do not follow that closely most days. For example, I recently received a news brief from Jane’s Defense in my email inbox. The headline intrigued me: “USJFCOM explores network-free warfighting.”
I read some more and the tease – “US Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) has conducted a comprehensive wargame that, among other things, evaluated the military’s ability to fight without networks” – reminded me of something important:
As communications professionals, we are living in an ever increasingly-networked world. Laptops, e-mail, IM, Twitter, IP phones and the Web have replaced the typewriter, letters, faxes, delivery services and press conferences. But what happens if we experience disruption? Blackouts, solar flares, or other events can shut us down for hours or weeks. But most likely the world outside continues moving.
While our challenges would never be as severe as those faced by the U.S. military, we can take lessons from the foresight the military is showing. Many of my financial services clients and I have these discussion as part of our crisis planning during any engagement.
I remember doing a lot of this a decade ago as the Y2K crisis approached. I was one of many communications professions for which New Year’s Eve 2000 was a day of work, not a night of celebration.
Following are three tips to keep in mind.
1) Plan for the worst – You do not need to be a manufacturer, an airline or a healthcare company to have a crisis. Part of your communications planning process should be spent thinking about what are the challenges you may face, and how will you respond to them? You won’t get them all, but if you identify the five most likely issues, you won’t be scrambling to make up responses on the fly.
2) Rehearse – The USJFCOM didn’t just think about these issues. They practiced them. Companies should have crisis drills where they practice their response. This year’s Best of Silver Anvil Award winner, Northern Illinois University, received the Anvil for the work they did during a crisis. They credit the skills of their response to the drills they ran.
3) Make sure “everyone gets the word.” Crisis planning should not be limited to just the communications and public relations department. Give guidelines to everyone and make sure people know where the plans are in case you are unavailable. It’s the little things. How are you going to get the message out, monitor the discussion, change the Web site, keep the company informed, etc.,