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Crisis Communication as a Professional Practice

DRI International (DRII) has developed an overview of professional practices designed to “assist the entity in the development and implementation of a BCM program.” In addition to being sound resiliency methods, these practices serve as a foundation for various DRII business continuity professional certifications.

With this resource as a guide, we at Send Word Now are briefly examining each professional practice, tying in relevant concepts surrounding emergency communications. Our ninth article in a series highlights DRII’s Professional Practice Nine: Crisis Communications.

It’s not surprising you’ve located a blog on the topic of crisis communications on the website of an emergency notification provider. Communicating in urgent situations is foundational to what we do every day. Yet, in this particular case, we’re not just examining the common perspectives of a notification vendor. We’re continuing our journey into DRII’s Professional Practices, focusing on crisis communications as a key responsibility of the business continuity manager.

The crisis communications professional practice, as described by DRII, provides the framework to identify, develop, communicate and exercise a crisis communications plan to address how communications will be handled before, during and after an event. The plan is not developed in a vacuum, but is instead created through a collaborative process with the organization’s public information/marketing and internal information resources to ensure message consistency to the greatest degree possible.

The resiliency professional’s roles in this practice include:
-Designing, developing and implementing a crisis communications plan
-Communicating and training stakeholders on roles and responsibilities for the crisis communications plan
-Exercising the crisis communications plan
-Maintaining the crisis communications plan

Mass Notification Technology Considerations

Rapid, secure alerting through an enterprise-level notification service can provide dramatic benefits to an organization, regardless of size or industry. Consider the following tips for aligning notification technology with your crisis communications plan: Match notification scenarios with the results of your previous Risk Assessment (RA) process. Create predefined notification groups, message templates, escalations, etc. to save time should you be faced with a real event.

Identify all stakeholders to be considered. Know which stakeholders are appropriate for receiving automated alerts, and which should be communicated to through other channels.

Identify the most effective modalities/channels for communicating with each stakeholder group. It may not be wise or necessary to send alerts to every communications device at once. Strategize the most effective information path for each particular audience. Consider the frequency of notifications. Provide guidance within the plan to determine how often notifications will be issued during and after an event.

Use notification for mobilization, not just information “blasts.” Rapidly pulling together the crisis response team can set the stage for success. Use the conference call and secure file sharing features to initially mobilize and inform high-level decision makers.

Determine ways to effectively utilize recipient feedback and message escalations. Feedback from questions posed within the alert (e.g., Send Word Now’s Get Word Back feature) can provide powerful situational intelligence that aids the response. Consider how feedback will be used in an event. Also, plan for ways notifications will escalate if key personnel are not available to respond.

The fact that DRII dedicates an entire professional practice to crisis communications illustrates the discipline’s importance to organizational recovery. While notification technology is not the only consideration within this practice, it can certainly serve as a valuable tool for maximizing the efficiency and effectiveness of stakeholder interaction during a critical event.