Best practice #5 – Crisis communications that is fit for purpose

Best practice #5 – Crisis communications that is fit for purpose

In the previous blogs in this series on best practice in BC planning, I looked at identifying and mitigating the risks to your corporate environment, scenario planning, creating incident plans and supply chain resilience. The next step in your BC planning should be to make sure that your crisis communications channels are fit for purpose.

Data gathered by information technology research company, Gartner, into the use of emergency notification systems shows that across all sectors, actual use of such systems was far greater than planned. The research shows that 67% of organisations made use of their emergency communications systems every year for traditional business disruption emergencies such as IT, communications and power failures, against only the 4% that they had anticipated that they would use it. And 51% of organisations made use of their systems for operational crises, such as office closures and equipment maintenance, against the 15% that had envisaged doing so.

There are a number of vital questions that you need to ask when selecting a crisis communications system:

  • The first question you need to ask is whether the system will be available when you need it most. If your power is out, or your internet is down, which are two of the most common crisis events, will your communications channels also be taken out? If your channels are locally hosted, on your own servers, or on desktop devices only, then the answer will almost certainly be no. You need to have in place a cloud-hosted service that also operates using a satellite phone signal and is available on your mobile devices.
  • The second question is whether your chosen system can hold the contact databases that you need. Can it scale up to include customers and suppliers, as well as your own employees? And can it group contacts by location, department or any other grouping, to allow you to reach only those people that you need to alert?
  • If you are assured that your system will be available and you have all of your stakeholders on board, the next question to ask is will my emergency message definitely get through to them? To give yourself the best chance of succeeding in this you not only need to have reliable telecoms suppliers, but also a multi-channel approach, so that the message will get through on several channels and your audience will take notice of it. Using e-mail, phone call, SMS and push notifications all at the same time will maximise your chances of success.
  • Alongside this multi-channel functionality, it is very important that you are able to track the success of your crisis communications. A system that not only tracks delivery, but also requires an acknowledgement that your message has been received and read is vital. This will be vital during the incident itself, but might also be very important for any post-incident review or investigation. It will tell you who knew what and when.
  • The final question you need to ask is, will my communications system deliver what I need? This might be just a text message to your customers, but for your response team you also need to be able to deliver action plans, maps and even video instructions. A platform that can deliver a wide variety of multi-media files to your different audiences could make the difference in reducing your recovery time and even saving your business.

If your crisis communications platform can tick all of these boxes then it will truly be fit for purpose. If it does not then will need to ask yourself which ones of them you can do without.

Rickie Sehgal
This blog is the fifth in a series looking at different aspects of best practice in BC planning.