This last week has been quite the week for pedestrian and vehicle collisions and accidents. We even had a few people die this week due to such incidents. Yes, I feel for the friends and families of those that have been impacted yet, what struck me most about each situation, was the communication messages being conveyed.
IT’s easy to blame one side of the situation and in many cases that might be reality. But just like in BCM and DR, we must convey a message that everyone can understand. The communications have to be straight to it and yet be articulate enough for people of any walk of life to understand the message – and have it retained. They can’t just be to one side of the situation. Here’s what I mean.
Immediately after the first accident the police and responding Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel were placing the blame for the traffic incidents on the shoulders of those driving; there was no responsibility placed on the side of the pedestrian. I found this odd because it was clean in some of the situations that the pedestrian wasn’t following the rules set out for them and the reminder about the rules wasn’t coming from the police of EMS; it was only directed at the vehicle operators.
The messages conveyed the fact that driver’s need to vigilant on what is happening around them and watch for pedestrians but there was not message about pedestrian’s knowing what’s going on around them either. Cars, trucks, motorcycles and even fast bicycle riders can’t stop on a dime when they see a potential accident occurring, yet even when an accident does occur, the message wasn’t for pedestrians to watch what was happening around them.
It’s like in BCM & DR when organizations start their communications and they only tell half the story or direct their messages to only one segment of those impacted. Some organizations will get in front of the camera and begin to tell their story at the blink of an eye yet, many of the organization’s employee’s don’t know what’s going or what they are supposed to do. The opposite is also true. When a disaster occurs employees are told what to do, where to go, how to do it and where they’ll be doing it, yet the public and media are kept in the dark and have no idea what is happening – causing allot of rumours and conjecture to begin circulating, which only caused grief of the organization.
So what do we need to do if even the police, EMS and other organizations (including corporations) only communicate half the message to half their audience?
When building your Business Continuity Management (BCM) program, ensure you create a Communications Matrix that lists out all the potential audiences you might have when – not if – a disaster or incident occurs. A basic matrix should identify:
- who is responsible for the creation of the message,
- the message content (leaving blanks so that specific details can be filled in based on the situation),
- the message frequency and,
- the person who’ll be delivering the message.
If you create this ahead of time, you won’t be telling half the story because you would have identified ahead of time all the specifics you need to communicate. Remember, communications is a two way street, it’s not one way or half a street.
Communications without dialogue on all sides is just a monologue for one side. And that’s what was happening this last week. Only one side was being preached at – almost condemned – for not doing something, which means that the other half don’t get the right message. What they get is that they are never responsible – it’s always someone else’s fault. And without a proper communications matrix, that’s what will come out of the organization; it’s not our fault, it’s someone else’s and when that occurs, the messages meant for others end up being completely mixed and missed.
So don’t tell half the story – tell it all, often and well so that everyone on all sides comprehends the situation.
© StoneRoad 2014
A.Alex Fullick has over 18 years’ experience working in Business Continuity and is the author of numerous books, including “Heads in the Sand” and “BIA: Building the Foundation for a Strong Business Continuity Program.”