Stay Sensitive and Smart Post-Crisis

The crises of recent days—both person-made (the D.C. naval yard massacre) and natural disasters (flooding in Colorado)— highlight the delicacy of communicating effectively in the shadow of disaster.

Crises like these emphasize the fragility of human life and daily life as we know it, so naturally send many of us into a personal tailspin, even if we’re not personally affected. And your network has been immersed, whether they have wanted to be or not, in crisis coverage.

As always, relevance rules and should remain your framework for communications decision making. Here’s how to stay sensitive but relevant post-crisis.

If your organization:

 1) Works on totally unrelated issues

  • Don’t pull the plug. Continue with your planned outreach.
  • At the same time, acknowledge the crisis. Pretending the disaster didn’t happen is the worst mistake your organization can make.

2) Advocates for related issues (in this case, gun control and climate change):

  • Now’s the time for you to connect the events to your issue, but be super-sensitive to inappropriate pitches. Track Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence to see effective responses.
  • Acknowledge the magnitude of the flood or massacre, and the contributions your network can make (and has made) to preventing like crises or disasters in the future.
  • Emphasize that the recent crisis highlights the need for change (and donations or advocacy) and increases the urgency of your call to action.

3) Provides direct support

  • Go! Get out there with your campaigns at 150 m.p.h. on all channels, with specifics.
  • Clarify, memorably and briefly, why your organization is well-equipped to help.
  • Share live stories, ideally with photos, quotes, video (while respecting those you’re helping), a.s.a.p.
  • Log your communications response. Then, in a few weeks when things are a bit quieter, use those notes to outline a one-page plan for next time (there will be one), so you can get out there even more strongly and more quickly.

More guidance on communicating post-crisis and disaster here.

Please share your recommendations, response and/or questions here. Let’s help each other do even better in responding to challenges like these. Thank you.

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Nancy Schwartz on September 17, 2013 in Crisis Communications | 1 comment
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