Crisis communication is receiving more and more global attention from both the corporate environment and from public or governmental institutions. With the world being under the threat of crises of a diverse nature, the need for cooperating and finding an appropriate solution for crisis communication is all the more poignant in an era driven by new media and the impact it has on people and their understanding of current events. Regardless of the crisis, without a proper crisis communication strategy in place, any company, institution, or government agency can suffer damages in its aftermath.
Government agencies have a special regime, as each of them was created with a particular purpose in mind, with agencies serving independent needs that rarely seem to intersect in the eyes of the public when it comes to the day-to-day, let alone in a crisis. But even though agencies do indeed serve independent purposes, and not all of them come equipped with the same tools, infrastructure, size of personnel or capacity of processing data, there exists a pressing need of crisis communication between government agencies, a need that has to be addressed and for which solutions should to be implemented as to keep up with public demand and the ever-changing nature of a crisis.
According to recent data, the US Department of Homeland Security has requested a total of $1.7 billion for the 2019 cyber security budget for selected government agencies. In the context of cyber threats becoming less of a novelty and more of a norm, a crisis communication strategy between government agencies is not only necessary, but in need of serious updates and improvements, if it already exists. But how can government agencies, which don’t share an office space, don’t serve the same purpose, and don’t rely on the same resources communicate with success in terms of a crisis and not only?
The first step towards a crisis communication strategy between government agencies is to have the basis for all needed communication when or if the time comes. Interoperability is key in terms of great communication, and all government agencies should acknowledge its importance. Having a central information system in place will save time in a crisis, will allow for crisis communication templates to be used by all agencies if the situation requires it, and also allow for a seamless flow of data and information. This doesn’t mean that all agencies are required to use the same software and hardware for all their operations, but that they should be connected to a central system that has all the proper information to use in times of a crisis.
Although they rarely share the same communication needs, in the case of a crisis, especially when talking about communication between government agencies and not with the public (which is simpler to contact), employees need to be able to reach each other no matter the situation, no matter the agency for which they are working, and no matter their current location. Having a multi-channel solution through which to conduct all crisis communication will ensure that everyone gets the message in time, whether we are talking about text, email, internal chat, or other forms of communication.
An effective crisis communication relies on prior planning and strategizing, on templates, practice scenarios, ongoing training of all crisis personnel, and on the understanding that regardless of how unpredictable crisis can be, crisis communication needs to be thought of in advance, and crisis communication plans need to be drafted for all possible scenarios. The more prepared you are, the easier it will be in times of a crisis, especially given the nature of government agencies and the particularities of communication between agencies. Create possible scenarios and implement the crisis communication strategies on all endpoints and devices you might need to use when or if a crisis occurs.
General tips on creating templates for crisis communication between government agencies:
Despite living in a digital-driven era, some government agencies communicate with other agencies through traditional and inefficient means instead of using a digital channel, even in the case of a crisis, risk, or emergency situation. This strategy needs to be set aside, especially in the case of crisis communication. Although traditional documents sent via post mail have their role, they should not be use in the case of sending information or asking for help during a crisis. If your agency does not want to go completely digital, you can keep post documents as a solution to the messages and information you need to send after the crisis has been handled, and as a mean of documenting the process, once there is time to draft other documents than emergency messages.
Although agencies have their crisis communication teams and team leaders, they often forget the fact that a hierarchy covering all agencies is also required. When you draft your strategy for crisis communication between agencies, make sure to also have a general hierarchy in place so that everyone knows who to get in time when or if the time comes. You can create the hierarchy based on regions, functions, or department, and further break it down to make sure that there is no position left uncovered, or no agency without a contact person or without communication responsibilities to handle in the event of a crisis.
Regardless of the size, purpose, or place of a government agency, and independent of whether or not crises are common in its region, every agency needs to have a crisis communication strategy in place in order to avoid mishaps, a strategy that also covers communication between government agencies. With such a strategy, government agencies will be able to help each other in a crisis, exchange information with more ease, and make sure that the public is safe and informed, no matter the situation. A modern crisis communication solution that offers a wide array of options and also the ability to gather and analyze data as to be able to improve current or future crisis communication strategies is of utmost importance in all government agencies.
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