What is a mind-map and how do they help communicators develop crisis messages?
Mind-mapping messages is simply a systematic way to develop clear, concise, easy to understand and deliver crisis messages in advance of the crisis occurring, as well as during and after the crisis. The goal of such messages is to simplify often technical or complex situations and ensure a speedy delivery of the message to the right audience at the right time. Mind-mapping your messages can be done prior to, during and after the crisis has occurred.
This is a series of articles that will help you understand the seven stages of a crisis and how to mind-map crisis messages. This process when done appropriately and successfully will ensure you will succeed in planning your messages before a crisis and better understand how you can use mind-mapping during and after a crisis.
I have no sympathy for those communicators for whatever reason, who don’t bother to understand the value of advance intelligence and warnings in planning for a possible crisis.
Many crisis communicators and their management tend to ignore such intelligence or they claim to not have the time and resources to gather and analyze the intelligence.
There are seven stages in our crisis model, as we have previously mentioned. They are:
1. The advance warning and/or advance intel stage
2. Situation assessment stage
3. Communicating the response stage
4. Operational management stage
5. Resolution and path forward prevention stage
6. Business continuity – recovery stage
7. Lessons learned – recalibrations stage
Let’s discuss the first stage – advance warning or advance intel.
Certain events especially weather related incidents such as hurricanes, flooding, snow events, high winds, torrential rains and tornadoes provide advance warning. These types of events have very distinct phases where warnings can be issued to heighten interest, awareness and preparation.
Often times it is suggested that such events as work place violence can’t be predicted yet we would suggest that in many cases, when the facts are reviewed post incident, we have found there were clues had they been carefully observed and reported that could have at least placed the organization on alert.
During this advance stage many organizations choose not to communicate to their audiences. It is our professional opinion that this is a missed opportunity for crisis communicators to build integrity of their message and develop meaningful relationships, especially if you are using social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or even your own website.
We recommend that you consider your current standard operating procedures and if you are not communicating during the advance warning stages that you consider doing so and that if you are not using social media you give serious consideration to integrating it into your communications program.
There certainly are those situations where you might have a complete surprise for example, a water main break, or an electrical failure, or indeed the work place violence incident that is purely random.
Even in totally unexpected situations though it is important in the planning process to have given careful thought and consideration in advance as to how and what you will communicate and who will be doing that communications. This is where mind-mapping is of great value.
When faced with issues such as water main breaks and electrical outages, which by the way often can be predicted if the situation is due to lack of regular maintenance, the crisis communicator, who has taken the time to build integrity, credibility and trust with his/her followers or friends on social media can have a significant influence on getting the message spread quickly to inform and educate the followers or friends as to what they should do and what they can expect in the resolution of the issue.
Finally, let’s be realistic.
There are certain dates that by understanding the value of advance intelligence planning and pre-planning you can be prepared to act quickly should the need arise.
For example, the dates associated with any tragic event is a likely candidate for threats and/or terrorist actions.
The dates most likely to come to mind are the terrorist attack on 9/11 yet the anniversaries of the bombing of the Federal building in Oklahoma 4/19, or 2/28 and the Waco tragedy and others could well be anniversary dates that need to be thought about in your crisis planning process.
Another role for advance intelligence gathering is when a controversial speaker or group is coming to your campus; it is prudent to engage all your colleagues that may have experience with the speaker or group to determine and discuss any issues they faced so you know what to be prepared for.
If the CDC issues a pandemic warning, the time to thoughtful review and assess your pandemic plan and your crisis message mind-map is now.
If earthquakes are occurring even more frequently in southern California than the norm and the state advises its citizens to prepare for outages, the time to review your evacuation plans and crisis messages is now!
Thoughtful, pragmatic thinking in advance combined with a systematic planning process (mind-mapping) can help you prepare a mind-map for crisis messages in advance of the need.
Next: The situation assessment stage – preparing a risk and situation assessment