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Advice Unlimited

Advice Unlimited

Monday, April 5, 2010

Public Messaging is a Crucial Element for Any Disaster Recovery Plan

Many of our homeland security, defense, health and human services, and emergency management organizations are doing an outstanding job of contingency planning – creating thorough disaster recovery and contingency plans for specific potential disasters, both natural and man-made. They are thinking through to very specific details and scenarios and they are to be applauded for this. That said, it is startling to me how many of these plans do not incorporate public messaging as a standard element of the plan.

How are you going to inform the public about the problem? How are you going to communicate with the public, to get them to follow crucial instructions that will save their lives? We must not only inform, we must persuade, secure trust, calm, reassure – and get people to actually follow the procedures we detail – or lives will be lost.

Public messaging – how you communicate these crucial, life-saving messages to the public – is just as important as public safety. It is an integral piece of any disaster recovery or contingency plan, yet is often overlooked, ignored, shied away from. Why?

One person said that public relations is often thought of as ‘political communications’ within certain circles of the government, so no one ‘wants to go there.’ But without proper attention, planning and preparation, this crucial piece will not go smoothly. It’s not easy to build trust and calm a public that is in the middle of a disaster; it’s not instinctive to know what are the best words, the appropriate tone, the right level of detail, to diffuse a traumatic situation and lay out a positive plan of action. Just as with all other aspects of a disaster recovery plan, public messaging must be strategically thought through and planned for. Ignoring this element invites chaos, distrust, distress.

Planning for public messaging ensures things will go more smoothly, the public will be informed appropriately and efficiently, and answers will be delivered swiftly. It can make the difference between a bad situation and a calamity; and focuses our attention on a crucial need of the most important element in any disaster recovery plan – the safety and security of our citizens.

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