Communicating in a Crisis
Best Practice Sharing for Controlling Your Narrative, Maintaining Your Reputation and How to Ensure Your Preparedness.

Key Takeaways from SOCMA’s June 1 Webinar

Crisis communications is a key component of safety management that all companies, no matter the industry, must effectively manage, whether in the midst of an actual crisis, or the potential of one. During SOCMA’s Crisis Communications webinar, speakers Rachel Coffman, Coffman Collaborative, and Christopher Brotherton, Ortec Inc., shared their expertise and experiences in this area.

Rachel Coffman, Founder, Coffman Collaborative

Rachel presented many key details that are part of crisis management, specifically responses to pre-crisis, post-crisis, and crisis response.

  • Preparation is key!
    • Crisis communication should be more than a reaction.
    • Like emergency preparedness this should not be the first time that your community hears from you. Develop relationships early on with Emergency Response, Elected Officials, and the community.
    • It is important that employees are trained and fully understand what their role is during an incident.
  • Stages of Crisis Communication
    • Preparedness: Facilities should have a plan in place. This is a systematic approach; plans will look different at each facility. Some may be present in the form of a manual or a simple procedure. This should be a part of your employee training as well.
    • Prevention: To be prepared, there must be an understanding of risk. Crisis communication is linked to a facility’s emergency response and preparedness as well.
      • Understand what your vulnerabilities are, who your stakeholders are and how you will address a crisis through a solid action plan.
      • Vulnerability audits can be used to identify gaps and understand your weaknesses. From there you can develop a formal plan of action.
        • Your plan can be divided into levels based on the following criteria, people (internal), scope, public concern media coverage and customer impact.
    • Reaction: Response and management of a situation determines the perception of the community and other stakeholders.
      • Your reaction has a huge impact on your reputation.
      • News travels fast. It is important to communicate what you know in a timely manner.
      • Remember: “No Comment” is a comment and may not be received as a positive one by media and other stakeholders. It is better to state that you are gathering information and managing the incident currently. Follow-up statements are productive and can be made once more information is available.
    • Recovery: It is important to keep relationships with stakeholders strong, mitigate the negative impacts and use the lessons learned to improve the system you have in place.

Christopher Brotherton, President, Ortec Inc.  

  • Emergency Preparedness
    • Crisis Communication should be a part of your emergency preparedness plan.
    • It is important to build relationships and include the community (firs departments, police hospitals) as part of your annual drills.
    • Prepare your senior leadership. You should designate a primary and secondary contact to communicate with reporters, local officials, and state agencies.
  • During the Incident
    • Understand: What is the extent, type, and severity of the incident as it unfolds.
    • Set Up a Crisis communication Center: If possible, set up at a location separate from your facility. It is suggested that the following personnel be present, Site Commander, Local Authorities, EHS Director and HR Director. Each person should have a predetermined role.
    • Monitor: Establish someone to monitor local and social media throughout the incident and report back to the communication center.
    • Communication to your employees is important: If possible, establish a hotline for employees to call or email or have HR personally call each worker to brief them before coming onto the next shift.

Categorized in: ,