Why do good emergency communications matter? Because it doesn’t matter whether it’s an electric utility, water utility, natural gas utility, or cell phone provider, service interruptions happen. And effectively and efficiently restoring service is only half the battle – customers and stakeholders must actually perceive that the company is doing (or had done) everything in its power to restore service as soon as humanly possible. It’s definitely a case of ‘perception is reality,’ and this is what makes emergency communications so important.
I recently stumbled upon an article written by a member of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management that offered up 5 best practice tips for effective disaster communications. According to this person, the best practices are:
- Don’t try to convince people they are wrong about what they believe is happening
- Focus on messages of “prevention” and not “preparation”
- Simplify messages as much as possible
- Encourage people to write down key tasks
- Customize messages to the audience to the extent possible
A couple of these tips are common sense, but others, such as 1, 2 and 4, are less intuitive. In fact, I’m not sure I agree with all of them, especially the one about people actually writing down the action items. That said, it’s an interesting albeit incomplete list. But irrespective of the list, communication is definitely the key – especially in an emergency situation – so the onus is on each company to develop whatever emergency communications protocols are necessary to address peoples’ needs, build trust, and optimize the receptivity of the message.