Every crisis communication manual that is referenced to a folder on the shelf must become dusty. Many organizations' strategies – too dated and too dense to be useful – remain virtually untouched in an office shelf or in a forgotten shared drive.
Not surprisingly, research has shown that the era of the smartphone has dramatically changed the way we process information. Recent analysis published in World Psychiatry shows that the use of the Internet and technology has shortened the attention span of an average person and has even affected memory processes. This is not a shock to the growing majority of multitasking Americans, 81 percent of whom have smartphones, according to the Pew Research Center.
Despite the decreasing attention span, today's digital native professionals are able to adapt to the latest interfaces and process information with the help of the user experience and to present new methods for crisis prevention and crisis management. Or at least they should.
While rapid technological changes have significantly changed the scale and frequency of crises themselves, it is imperative that those who manage these scenarios use technologies that keep pace with the digital age, rather than past solutions, to good crisis management to train and perform. These technology solutions – from online training to software platforms and apps – ensure that a carefully crafted plan is properly distributed, understood and accessible at the push of a button.
One of the biggest obstacles to implementing a crisis management strategy is to overcome planning to ensure that executives working in a crisis understand both the plan and their individual roles. Online training modules can help ensure adoption of the new contingency plan by providing an interface for the user to participate in directly (without the need for a trainer). Essentially, management teams need to meet their end users where they live – on their phones, tablets, or computers. Nobody collects their photos in 2020.
The topic management teams and the plans themselves are increasingly being put to the test by crisis simulations. By coming together and experiencing a potential crisis that is specific to their business, the crisis response team experiences the onslaught of reputational challenges by responding to reporter requests, employee questions, investor requests, angry tweets, and government requests in real form Time. This act of “socializing” the strategy through simulation provides team members with an engaging opportunity to learn through action – in a way that is true to life and not a soulless, paper-based exercise. Simulation software has optimized the process and enabled these exercises in a closed, secure environment.
Regardless of whether it is a multinational company with offices around the world or a small local company, companies increasingly need solutions for remote and / or mobile workers. FlexJobs statistics show that the number of remote workers in the United States alone has increased by 44 percent in the past five years.
Training modules and crisis simulations can now be made available to employees around the world, eliminating obstacles that once prevented dispersed teams from being kept informed of available resources and individual expectations during a crisis. We have gone beyond simple conference calls, and crisis management teams are all the better.
By providing a virtual war zone, crisis management apps offer the possibility of establishing a remote connection in order to close potential gaps for geographically distributed organizations and to enable flexible planning across time zones. While business trips and a remote workforce previously prevented a crisis team from running in sync, the ease of use of a mobile app connects executives on the go. And that's a good thing, because it's rare for companies to be able to secure real-world crises when teams are parked at their desks.
Even the best-designed communication strategy is useless if it is not readily available at critical moments in a crisis. In a crisis app, plans are stored under easy-to-navigate topic symbols so that important strategies are always at hand. From finding team contact information to finding the right conversation points, apps organize the key components of a crisis response strategy for quick execution.
Perhaps the greatest contribution of technology to crisis management is increasing efficiency.
Once created for a contingency plan, online training modules require minimal future additions. The team can easily track who has completed the online training, conduct refresher courses, and bring new staff on board. The simulation software automates the process and relieves the creation of manual simulations. It also provides important data for evaluation after the simulation. All this gives the company-wide readiness for crisis an important continuity.
For me, the crisis management app is the most sacred thing when we try to get companies moving when they take into account the willingness to deal with organizational crises. It categorizes information and ensures that everyone works with the most up-to-date documents and resources available. It restricts various permissions to ensure that participants do not come out of their area of responsibility, thus preventing duplication. It also ensures that the content of a contingency plan is digestible and makes a scenario plan more mobile by only dealing with the most important and functional content. Consider running an airline. Now consider how difficult it would be to reach a crisis management workforce without a resource on a flight attendant's phone.
In addition, the app automates the most important aspect of effective crisis management and insists: cooperation. Through notifications, secure chats, coordination and joint checklists, the crisis management team can act as a coherent unit that focuses on reputation management, strategy development and stakeholder public relations.
Solutions for crisis communication technology are cornerstones of modern issues management today. The skills associated with these technologies meet the needs of a crisis team in the digital age. Just as rapid technological changes have led to new crises such as data breaches and viral social media events, they have also expanded the crisis communication toolkit. We can be grateful if we are skeptical about the practical use of some gifts of the digital age. These new offerings maximize preparation, streamline execution and lead crisis communication teams to successfully tackle the most demanding reputation challenges.
Elizabeth Cholis is Managing Director in the Strategic Communication segment at FTI Consulting and member of the FTI practice for Crisis & Issues Management.
The views expressed herein are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of FTI Consulting, Inc., its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates or other professionals.