It’s Good to Talk: Communicating in a Crisis
Communication saturation has become as normal and vital as breathing, especially in the business world. We need efficient and constant communication channels both internally and externally for our organizations; as well as with colleagues, partners, vendors and customers.
Put simply, communication makes our business more effective in every way, even allowing for the stream of inappropriate and occasionally funny emails that circulate within every office.
A communication breakdown can worsen the immediate and lasting effects of a disaster. So, the question I have is: how will you communicate in the midst of a crisis? How will you get your employees back to work if you cannot get in touch with them? How will you get the resources necessary to recover if you can't talk to your vendors? How will your business survive if you can't reach out to your customers? If you don't have a solid answer to these questions then your business could be circling the drain.
Don't wait until your office is a glowing hole in the ground to start wondering how to communicate with the world. The key is planning. With that in mind, here are a few ideas:
- Define the essential individuals you need to communicate with i.e. employees, customers, and vendors.
- Identify appropriate and effective forms of communication for each group.
- Build an emergency contact list for employees and key vendors that includes home and mobile phone numbers, personal emails, and family contact info.
- Set-up an Alert Notification System (there are a number of vendors out there, plus Agility provides one as part of our standard membership). Be sure to share its purpose with employees and test the system regularly.
- Determine how you will contact your customers as well as how they can contact you. Don't let them call in to a dead line; you'll lose a lot of customer confidence in a very short space of time.
Once you have identified the key contacts from each group, start working on your media choices. For example:
- Employees - text messages, emails, Twitter (see, it does actually have its uses after all!), online message boards, phone trees (delegate responsibilities for calling within your organization).
- Customers - in addition to emailing and Tweeting, think about placing announcements with local newspapers, TV stations, radio stations and your own website. If your building is still standing then put up notices there. You should also have contact information for your customers, so email them and, if you can, follow-up with a reassuring phone call to inform them of the current situation and what you are doing to resolve it.
- Vendors - to be honest a combination of any of the above would be effective. Contact them, tell them what you need, and tell them the best ways reach you.
- For all of the above make sure you get an effective phone redirection strategy in place and get it working as soon as possible following a disaster. A disconnected phone line can lose you customers, panic your employees, and even lead to your vendors allocating the resources you need to other clients.
The caveat I would place here is that it is important not to get carried away. If you go all out and try to do everything listed above, things are likely to get complicated. Take a good long look at the most effective channels of communication that are appropriate for your business, and stick with them. Incorporate this communication plan into your larger disaster recovery strategy, and make sure to communicate your disaster recovery plan to the people who will be required for it to work, and then practice it. And, as always, be prepared to improvise, adapt and overcome.
Happy DR planning! Have a wonderful, safe and disaster free Holiday Season!
- Ben Pritchard
Agility Recovery Solutions
Agility Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity Solutions
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