“Ask the Crisis Manager” Vol. 1, No. 1: Clear steps, disaster communications and social media in a crisis

I received a terrific first wave of questions for this feature — thanks to all for participating!  To maintain my post-brevity rule, I’ll post three answers at a time and queue up other questions in future editions.

Keep those questions coming by posting here, or through Twitter

Onward — to your questions….


callie melton: When a crisis hits, what are some of the steps to help you think through the situation clearly (like an acronym like ROSTE or what have you)?

J.D.: Great question, Callie, because you’ve presented two questions in one — one on mindset, and one on approach.

1) Mindset — when faced with a crisis, you need to bring three attributes to the table: credibility, focus and imagination.  Credibility builders include such things as expressing empathy, being consistent in word/deed and maintaining a good level of authentic communications.  Focus requires you to simplify the complex and clearly define the threats to your business.  You also have to execute your plan or direct team with a great deal of focus.  Imagination requires foresight — what can make this situation worse?  Imagination also helps you to tell your side of the story in a compelling way.

2) To organize your approach, check out my “Desert-Island Crisis Tool” post.  I think the simple grid that’s attached is one of the best tools you can use.


Steffan Cavill-Fowler on Public Education: What are your thoughts on disaster preparedness and the messages to the public?  [How do you balance messages for] some who evacuate and for people that wish to stay for whatever reason and what to do for toilets etc.  Also what is a good program for crisis management here in New Zealand?

J.D.:  Your questions are rooted in risk communication, Steffan, and it’s difficult to answer here because of the wide variety of considerations required on the type of disaster, the amount of public awareness/concern about the risk, etc.  Instead, I’ll direct you to the wonderful online resources available on this topic from Peter Sandman.  He has different approaches based on the level of hazard and outrage.

I can’t recommend any specific crisis training programs in New Zealand, but you can refer to this post to help you narrow down your choices, based on your needs.  I hope both of these links help guide you.


Andrea Obston:  I’d like to know how people are making use of social media in crisis communications during and after the crisis.

J.D.:  You’ve certainly struck upon the hottest topic of the last year, Andrea.  In fact, PRSA will soon publish my article on this topic and I will link it to this Web site when published (and retro-link it to this post).  Rather than repeat that copious information here, I’ll share one tip.  When facing a crisis, all organizations (or people) are wise to monitor social media – it’s free, available, raw research on your reputation.  Whether or not to engage depends on myriad factors which I explore more fully in the article.  Stay tuned!

Update:  Here is a link to the blog summary AND the full article from PRSA’s The Public Relations Strategisthttp://www.jamesjdonnelly.com/2010/03/analyzing-five-commonly-held-beliefs-about-2-0-crises/

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