Effective Crisis Communication Strategies For The Web

By Miranda Stephen — Thursday, February 28th, 2019 at 11:00am

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Communication in the Digital World

In times of crisis, a communication process can protect and preserve an organization facing a challenge to its security. In the era of digital media, a crisis communication strategy (CCS) can provide assurance of safety and control in times of natural disasters, terror attacks, or any event in which the public is vulnerable. Social media precedes traditional multimedia journalism as it reaches a larger audience at a greater rate. Tweets and Facebook updates go live within seconds of an incident, sometimes with minimal background information to support the content. As digital media has gained prominence as a primary source of information, ultimately it is the responsibility of the organization to maintain content control and security to prevent a further spread of panic. Organizations must adopt web-based crisis communication strategies to preserve and protect the individuals within their organization and the public. Within each crisis is an opportunity to display your mission, character, and values through a demonstration of content control.

While social media has enabled organizations to have direct communication with stakeholders, it has increased organizations vulnerability during a crisis. On the surface, the public is seemingly well-informed with access to information at all times. Digging deeper, the fast-paced delivery of news results in unfinished information that is scarcely plausible. While social media presents a credibility dilemma, it is not to be dismissed as effective when used correctly. Following the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing, the Boston Police Department utilized social media to correct misinformation reported by social media and news outlets. The policing of social media proved effective in ensuring the public felt safe, well-informed, and that the crisis was under control. Maintaining a control of the content, the Boston Police Department exercised an effective web-based crisis communication strategy to prevent widespread panic and maintain security.

The Crisis Management Team

To coherently implement an effective CCS, a crisis management team is required, with volume and roles subject by the size of an organization. Throughout a crisis, this team will collaborate frequently to review updates and assess whether the implemented strategies are reaching the appropriate audience and adaptable to the current crisis.

The key to a successful crisis communication strategy is to have open communication between team members and executive leaders within your organization. Moreover, your public is an aspect to be mindful of at all times. The public will be the direct community of your organization in addition to stakeholders, media, impacted families, public officials, and the general public.

The crisis management team must first assess the the situation  and determine what message should be publicly broadcasted first. Crisis management teams have the option to broadcast emergency notifications through:

  • Telecommunication (text-messaging/phone-calls)
  • Social Media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
  • Web-Based (Website banner, email, blog-posts)

If your organization offers physical emergency alert systems, such as sirens or loud-speakers, your crisis management team may choose to activate those features first.

In anticipation of the common problems associated with the flow of broadcasting urgent news in traditional and social media, the crisis management team should set up a task-force to moderate the information highlighted by the media. As news begins to break in regards to the crisis, it is then a crucial moment for the crisis management team to demonstrate further control by updating the organization’s website. Naturally, individuals will seek out an official notification from your website to further verify the information. At this point, there should be a notification located on your website’s banner with an associated hotline number. This step may be combined with a blog post located on your website with updates as the crisis continues.

Software to Propel a Crisis Communication Strategy

Cascade CMS features a module that simplifies the manner in which users broadcast emergency notifications on their website. Through Cascade CMS, users are able to develop updated content onto the website such as emergency notifications. Organizations may choose to draft notifications for common emergency events to ensure a timely update on the website. The drafting of content allows users to act swiftly to capture control of the situation immediately. With Cascade CMS, users can ensure an equal communication to their employees, stakeholders, and community affected by the crisis.

Looking at third-party vendors, Everbridge IT Alerting is an emergency communication SaaS product. In the event of an emergency, Everbridge notifies users through email, text, and phone calls. AlertMedia is another communication product that provides assistance in alerting your target audience. AlertMedia offers to update users in times of crisis through text, email, phone-calls, and mobile app

In the event of damaged infrastructure or power failure preventing the spread of an emergency notification over text or Wi-Fi, there are various messaging apps that organizations may access that require no Internet or cellular data to function. Notably, Firechat and Bridgefy have emerged as effective emergency communication platforms on the global scale. These platforms may also prove an effective platform for the crisis management team to communicate with each other as a crisis may strike with the team members located within great distance of each other.

Summary

Implementing a crisis communication strategy eliminates the potential for sensationalized sources to release unsupported information. While digital media, in all formats, is essential to the spread of information, it needs to be spread under a controlled force in times of crisis.

Organizations with a crisis communication strategy for their websites are more effective in keeping the public and their interests secure. By implementing a crisis communication strategy, organizations are prepared to respond to crisis’ in a timely and efficient manner. Finally, it is important to remember that even a crisis provides an opportunity to display your mission, character, and values through a demonstration of content control.

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