Aneffective crisis communications plan is an important tool that helpsorganizations deal with unexpected occurrences more effectively.Communicating about a given crisis differs from other types ofcommunication in that organizations aim at conveying the messagequickly, while maintaining the accuracy in order to reduce chances ofpanic among the targeted audience (Clark Communications, 2014). Thisis achieved by using positive, but assertive communication style thatensures that the organization conveys the message that focuses on themost crucial aspects of the crisis and moves the process towards aviable resolution. This paper will address the key aspects of crisiscommunication with respect to a scenario in which water supplies insome towns have been contaminated with some life-threateningbiological agent. The paper will focus on individuals and groups thatwill communicate the advantages and challenges of communicationduring crisis, Differences in communication used during the crisis,the use of appropriate technology, how technology might be useddifferently, and media opportunities available during managementcrisis.
Groupsand individuals that will communicate
Theinformation released to the public will be clearly evaluated todetermine its accuracy and be conveyed by trusted individuals andgroups. This is based on the notion that the mode of communicationduring the crisis influences the public perception about the crisissituation (Betsy, 2014). Therefore, the primary roles of the directorof emergency management are to ensure that the information thatreaches the media is audience-centered, emotion-based, and releasedby individuals and groups that can be trusted by the public. To thisend, the director of the emergency will require the use ofinvestigation and presentation of a formal report to her office by aninternal crisis management team. The director will be the only personpassing the information that has been verified and authorized by thepublic. However, external groups might be involved depending on themagnitude of the crisis. For example, the office of the president andthe Center for Disease Control will be requested to communicate tothe public if the crisis was an act of terrorism. This means thatinternal communications will be done by a selected crisis managementteam, while communication between the organization and the outsidestakeholders will be done through the office of the emergencydirector, Office of the President, and the Center for DiseaseControl.
Membersof the public, the media fraternity, and different governmentagencies become anxious and willing to know much about the crisis.Communication during such a situation can result in three majorbenefits. First, pro-active communication will give the public anopportunity to adopt protective actions (WHO, 2013). For example,residents of towns with contaminated water supplies will stop usingthe pipe water until the issue is investigated and the publicinformed about safety levels of the water supplies.
Secondly,effective communication reduces confusion (Pre, 2005). The emergencydirector should be aware of the fact that the media representativemust get the information even if the organization fails to provide itto the public. This increases the likelyhood of the public gettingthe wrong and misleading information. Therefore, taking theinitiative to supply the public with the correct information willreduce confusion.
Third,effective communication results in effective use of resources inresponding to the crisis (WHO, 2013). For example, emergency agencies(such as the Red Cross) will get reliable information, which willprovoke to supply clean water to residents of the affected towns. Oneof the major challenges that the director of the emergency willencounter is the regulation of information to prevent filtration ofincorrect messages to the public. In addition, it will be difficultto preserve information pertaining to some aspects (such as thecasualty list, and environmental damage) until reliable assessment isdone.
Differencesin the communication process
Theprocess used in communication during the crisis provides threelessons that can be used in enhancing the health care communicationstrategies. First, the responsible organization takes the initiativeto inform the public and other agencies about the issue in question.Similarly, the health care communication strategies should ensurethat the health care agencies assume their primary responsibility ofinforming the public about various health issues. This is one way ofreducing the chances of the public getting incorrect information.Secondly, the communication process used during the crisis ensuresthat the information passed to the public has been verified andauthorized by responsible individuals (Bernstein, 2013). The healthcare communication strategies should also ensure that the informationabout different health issues is based on evidence and authorized byresponsible officers to ensure that the public gets reliableinformation. Third, the communication process ensures that theinformation passed to the public is emotion-entered andaudience-centered. The integration of these basic elements of aneffective communication process into health care communicationstrategies will ensure that the patients and the public at largeinteract effectively with the health care systems.
Technologicaladvancement has affected many aspects of human life, and crisiscommunication is not an exception. Social media sites (including theFacebook) provided the fastest means of reaching a large populationwithin a short time given that people can access the social sitesusing simple electronic gadgets, such as mobile phones. This impliesthat the emergency director should consider posting information onthe organization’s social site page. According to Wendling &Jacobzone (2013) the use of social sites in communication during thecrisis improves the public awareness, improve the efficiency of themonitoring strategies, enhance preparedness, and result in successfulcrisis response. However, the director should be aware of thepossible negative effects of relying on social sites to inform thepublic. Some of the potential drawbacks include information overload,failure of the multiple players to communicate with one voice,possibility of unreliable information being posited, anddiscrimination of residents who are not familiar with the socialmedia (Wendling & Jacobzone, 2013). In spite of these challenges,social media are one of the modern technologies that can help theemergency director in keeping residents of the affected townsupdated.
Differentuse of technology
Technologyhas been advanced significantly compared to the way it was in 1979and 2005 when the Three Mile Island power plant malfunctioned andHurricane Katrina occurred respectively. Although the internet wasused to share information about Hurricane Katrina in the year 2005,there are several technological advances that have been achieved,which can enhance the process of crisis reported using technology.For example, the number social sites have increased, and thisprovides a wider platform where information about crisis (such thewater contamination) can be shared irrespective of the geographicaldistance between the communicator and the audience (Wendling &Jacobzone, 2013). In addition, the internet connectivity hasincreased and reached many places, which means that social media isnow the fastest and the cheapest means of informing the public aboutthe crisis. Moreover, technology has opened other channels ofinformation sharing (including the blogs) from where people can postand read information about a given crisis.
Media,especially the social media provide the stakeholders in the field ofcrisis management with an opportunity to report incidents and theprocess of crisis response operations in real time. According toNelson (2013) social media provides an excellent opportunity todisseminate emergency information that is regarded as urgent in realtime and crowd-source all situational information from the affectedregions. For example, social media will provide an opportunity forthe residents of towns with contaminated water to post informationand pictures of the contaminated supplies.
Effectivecommunication during the crisis is critical because it helps thestakeholders in the emergency response sector convey informationurgent information about the crisis. However, communication needs tobe properly coordinated between individuals and groups in order toensure that the information passed to the public is reliable.Effective communication within the organization and between theorganization and the public ensures that protective actions are takenin time, confusion reduced, and mobilization of resources to enhancethe process of crisis response. The communication process used duringthe crisis management ensures that the information passed to thepublic has been verified and authorized. With the current rate oftechnological advancement, emergency management has become easier.Social media sites provide an opportunity for the stakeholders in theemergency response and residents of the affected areas to shareinformation about the crisis in real time. For example, people livingin towns where water supplies have been contaminated can contributetowards information sharing by posting their experiences in theirsocial site pages.
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