Is Your Public Entity Prepared to Respond to a Crisis?

Sep 16, 2019 | Public Relations

In a rapidly changing digital world, it’s more important than ever for governmental entities at all levels to effectively communicate, especially in the face of a crisis situation or even a known looming crisis.

Did you miss our state of government entities’ communications preparedness report? We’ve got you covered. View the Results.

Communities are not prepared to respond

According to our recent Gavin research study of local townships, boroughs and municipal authorities in Pennsylvania, 85% of public entities are concerned that a crisis situation will unfold over the next 24 months. However, nearly six in 10 do not have a communications plan in place to address a crisis.

Governing community organizations could be faced with greater challenges as a direct result of their lack of preparedness as failure to communicate early in a crisis situation may lead to public distrust and the spread of misinformation. This missed communications opportunity to establish your authority or township as the reliable, trusted source for facts about the problem local leaders are trying to address may lead to the inaccurate sources emerging as perceived experts. That could undermine the quick resolution of issues.

How does your community want information in a crisis?

As a public entity, you’re faced with limited resources, restrictions, and requirements that place strains on your internal processes. This combined with the demands of your public during a crisis put you smack in the middle of crafting a plan to satisfy everyone while keeping your publics well informed.

Many organizations fail to plan ahead and establish their voice and communications platforms as recognized resources for information in advance of a crisis – leaving them scrambling when a crisis actually does hit.

The question you should be asking is if social media should be considered a more important component in your communications plan.

Based on your communities’ use of social, that answer should be yes!

The majority of Americans rely on social media channels to get the information they need quickly. In a 2019 Pew Research Center study, Facebook was cited as the most widely used social media site among adults in the U.S. Nearly 70% say they use the platform.

Meanwhile, Instagram and Snapchat remain especially popular among those ages 18 to 29. Instagram is reaching 67% of that demographic, while Snapchat is used by 62%.

But social media is an underutilized communications tool among governmental entities. More than half of public authorities in the commonwealth do not use social media.

How do you solve this problem?

Get to work on a communications plan.

Public entities are stretching funding resources to keep up with essential service expenses to support their residents, making it even more important for officials to develop a communications strategy in the event of a crisis situation.

Start by understanding what resources you plan to leverage and how you intend to use communications as a tool in a crisis. Greater control of your communications positions your entity as a trusted, organized source for information, helping you to earn trust in times of emergency to increase your perceived value among your publics.

Part of that plan should include roles and chain of command for approval to establish a communications decision-making process that allows you to navigate quickly through a chaotic situation with greater control.

As you craft a plan, consider advance media training to ensure officials are prepared for planned communications with specific messages and methods to reduce public confusion.  This includes understanding as a team what steps are being taken to resolve the crisis and what is to be communicated publicly. Digital channels, such as social media platforms, should be used to relay details on proactive steps that are being taken to mitigate future crises. Using social media provides you immediate, real-time communications at your public’s fingertips.

Preparing and planning goes beyond writing a plan.

Want to prepare for a potential issue or crisis before it happens?

We’ve worked with numerous governmental entities to help them prepare and manage communications before, during and after the crisis.

Let’s talk.