I like to think this a key skill of a top class communications person. Being able to filter out noise and get to the facts when all hell breaks loose is quite a skill.
If working in crisis communications you have to use your skills in absorbing sometimes conflicting information at speed and make decisions based on sound judgements and fact. Something often lacking in a crisis. Over a decade ago I went on a Home Office emergency planning course and I was told about the three M's of an emergency or crisis. It has stuck with me and whenever I see a crisis unfold, mostly as an observer but occasionally in work practice I see the three M's.
- Mayhem - the time where the issue is emerging, it may be emergency services are being scrambled or if it is an internal crisis such as a news tip-off or security issue the facts are scarce and the chickens are headless.
- Mastermind - the crisis team are pulled together, the situation is being brought under some kind of control. If there is an audience or need to communicate initial statements are being agreed. Usually in the case of an emergency the situation has been dealt with, the fire may be out and the investigation has commenced.
- Manhunt - the sometime unfortunate inevitable need to find the responsible person to blame or hold accountable. Be it the media wanting to splash a face across the front pages or a CEO having to report to a board the same is true.
A good crisis communications strategy can help you plan for each of the three stages, it is sound business practice to model what crises could affect your business. What if your building was flooded or a member of staff did something they shouldn't? Are you ready? By deciding who is in your crisis team, your own mini COBRA you can get ahead and minimise the mayhem. You could draft some statements. Have copies of all your important documents in one place. Simple things that may save you money or protect your reputation.