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. Article 3 in a series …
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.
¡ There are seven phases to understand underlying information needs necessary to mind-map messages
¡ 1. Advance warning or advance intel
¡ 2. Situation assessment
¡ 3. Communicating the response
¡ 4. Operational management
¡ 5. Resolution and path forward prevention
¡ 6. Business continuity – recovery
¡ 7. Lessons learned – recalibrations
This article deals with the second phase – the situation assessment. When the crisis hits, and invariably they do at the least opportune time and typically not during work hours, the crisis and emergency management team assembles to assess the risk and do a situation assessment. It is during this phase that the emergency operations plan is activated.
Communications during this phase is typically between team members and observers in the field providing first hand information whenever possible from the scene. Social media such as Twitter and You Tube along with SMS texting can enhance the gathering of the field reports and intel when properly used.
Smart phones now enable us to not just communicate by voice; we can now send video and photos instantly back to the command and control center for quick assessment. I-pads and similar tablets allow the field observer to write quick reports while documenting in photos and video the situation.
During this phase, it is important to monitor social media: Facebook, twitter and YouTube channels to see what is coming in from various other sources and when needed correct mis-information. Although command and control under the NIMS way of business finds it foreign to engage such technology as a rule the social media platforms are valuable resources for intel, other site observers and can be used to shape the messages that are going out instanteously.
It is important at this stage to do the best situation assessment possible to ensure that when briefing executives, administrators and management that you have as complete an understanding of the situation as possible.
Although many organizations tend to take a standardized and even a blanket approach to communications at this stage, we suggest that careful thought be given to the chains of command, the audiences and the priority in which information is shared. The last thing that you want your university president to do is hear about a crisis situation on the main stream or social media before you have informed her.
Informing and giving notice to your local law enforcement and first responders, campus security and other officials in the call down list calls for as much clarity and completeness as possible when assessing the situation.
All your audiences, including the traditional media, will understand if you have to make corrections in the opening hours of the crisis, however when informing the various required audiences state clearly what can be verified and what can’t. Use social media as another intel source and gather as much information as possible as quickly as you can.
Next: Communicating the response