Have You Stopped Communicating Yet?

Here’s a new warning about the Swine Flu. Beware if you work in an organization where everything is quickly going back to normal and you’re being told to cease all communications related to the Swine Flu.

The reality is the Swine Flu doesn’t appear to be spreading at catastrophic pandemic rates, but in the world of media relations, crisis communications and employee communications, you should be doing 2 things:

First continue writing any unwritten communications you may need to eventually issue as it relates to the swine flu.

Secondly, convert everything you have written into templates that you can easily access and use for similar disasters… everything ranging from other pandemics, to bio-terrorism to mass casualty events… and definitely have your messaging ready should the Swine Flu escalate in the near future or later, during the 2009 flu season.

Swine Flu is a classic smoldering crisis that would involve communications about precautions, policy regarding infections, infection notification, death from infection, and all clear communications. In Tuesday’s Swine Flu teleseminar I’ll be getting into each of these more in depth.

Also remember my admonition to you just 2 weeks ago when this story broke – now is when you should be requesting the time and budget you need to establish a holistic crisis communications plan and system. PR people often fail to be opportunistic. Trust me, people in other departments, like Risk Management, are being opportunistic. Not only are they being opportunistic, but they’re also preparing for the future because pandemics affect the profits of companies when workers can’t work.

Classic crisis and post crisis behavior is for organizations and individuals to say, “Wow, I’m glad that didn’t happen here.” Then they return to normal operations and do no further planning until the next crisis. Numerous surveys indicate that after events like Hurricane Katrina and the Virginia Tech shootings, most communications departments and most organizations did nothing to prepare for their own crisis of a similar or lesser magnitude.

Always remember that the worse time to write messages about a crisis is when you are in the heart of the crisis. The best time to write messages about a crisis is on a clear sunny day when emotions are low and logic is high.

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