Communications plans silent in crises

 

Communications is frequently the forgotten element in crisis risk management, a US crisis communications expert will tell Australian risk managers in an Australia-wide lecture tour.

Bob Jensen, who has more than 30 years’ experience dealing with events that made global headlines, will alert Australian risk managers to the need for four essential plans to mitigate the impact of crises during events organised by the Risk Management Institution of Australasia (RMIA) in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane.

Mr Jensen said organisations today needed business continuity plans; crisis action plans; crisis communications plans; and cyber security action plans. For each, communication was one of the most critical elements.

He warned cyber security was evolving into one of the biggest potential risks for businesses, ranking higher than natural disasters and terrorism.

Too many organisations were unprepared for crises and particularly for communicating with stakeholders, including the media.

“In my work with national, state and local governments and the private sector, very few actually have adequate crisis communication planning. The result is that when a crisis or disaster happens, they are totally unprepared and lose precious hours, even days, trying to decide what to do. By then their businesses and reputations are damaged and public confidence is lost,” Mr Jensen said.

Insufficient planning – and inadequate testing of plans – was the reason a third of businesses failed after experiencing a major crisis.

“You can’t specifically prepare for everything but, by taking an all-hazards approach, your business will be in a better position to face any issue,” Mr Jensen said. “Most companies are woefully unprepared.”

He warned that some companies’ crisis communication plans were too basic and not tested.

Many CEOs had no media training to handle interviews and press conferences and many companies had no clear roles for communicating during a crisis. “I highly recommend companies get a reputable company to help them out. Even if they pay $100,000 now for training and preparing plans to deal with crises, it can save millions of dollars later, should an incident occur that could spur law suits, lost reputations and lost business.”

Mr Jensen led US Government communications after the Haiti earthquake and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012. He will share insights and lessons learned from government and private sector perspectives for those major events and tell RMIA event participants how they can integrate those ideas into their own enterprise risk management efforts.

He will explain what governments around the world see as major threats and risks and talk about how the US is using a risk-based approach to plan for and manage national security.

Mr Jensen has led US Government communications for national and international events including combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and been a spokesman for the US National Security Council covering issues from terrorism and trade to cyber security and international conflicts.

His Australian tour starts on February 26 in Sydney and ends in Brisbane on March 17, 2015.

Released by: Kate Tilley, RMIA Communications Consultant, ph (07) 3831 7500 or 0418 741606, email ktj@ktjournalism.com

Release date: January 12, 2015