I am fortunate that none of my family have been directly involved in the recent terror attacks in Manchester or London. However, having lived and worked in both cities during my career (including being in London at the time of the terorist attacks in the 1990’s), these events do have an impact on me as I watch the news on and online.
It is clear with the most recent attacks in London that the swift response by emergency services can only have happened through crisis practice and drills.
I hope that something as devastating never happens in your organisation. However watching and reflecting on how crisis communications is managed at times like this can shed some light on what we can apply in our own organisations.
This article reflects on the way that the Metropolitan Police have handled their communications over the last number of hours since the event on Saturday evening 3 June 2017. This is not meant to be an in-depth analysis of their communications – this should be treated as a prompt to help us all to consider how we are prepared for a crisis and responding to the media.
Have you a spokesperson who is able to communicate both fluently and with compassion, sharing a prepared statement and then able to engage with questions from the media and other key stakeholders, displaying authority and yet humanity? That is what Commissioner for the Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick achieved in the statement and question and answer session this morning.
Are you ready to publish the statement that was made by your spokesperson in the briefing online? You can find the statement from Commissioner for the Metropolitan Police here. In addition you will find the statement published in full on their Facebook Page. They also link to the statement from their Twitter account.
All too often I find organisations who have no easy way to publish announcements on their website, and with speed as is required at times of crisis, and they oten omit to post relevant updates to their social media accounts.
Can you ask the public for help in sharing with you user generated content of the event? This is especially relevant if you are in a large corporate, for example the sponsors or event organisers of a festival. In these circumstances are you prepared to have a process in place with the relevant emergency authorities to request potential witnesses to share photo or video footage from the event that could help enquiries into the situation. You will find the Metropolitan Police requesting people
You will find the Metropolitan Police requesting people submit photos or videos online here.
In addition this is prominently on the front page of their website.
Are you able to update your website quickly in the middle of a crisis to keep people updated of events as they unfold, rather than leaving the media to be the report the event? Yes the media can help you reach the public, but they need a source for information. As an example,example the Metropolitan Police are publishing updates in terms of how the investigation into the London incident is progressing such as this announcement about arrests in connection with the incident.
The announcement would have been approved by multiple people before it was published, but they were able to easily add the content to their website because they are using software that helps them create an easy to manage their news room – a platform I recommend the the people I have on my social media and PR workshops called MyNewsDesk. The announcement has also been shared in full on Facebook and there is a post on Twitter that links back to the official announcement on their newsroom.
In my experience when an organisation shares helpful, timely and relevant updates at times of crisis, they become a source for the media who look for updates to share on their platforms.
Are you confident that you have a process in place that means that content that is relevant to your crisis from other organisations is shared on your social channels? As an example, the Metropolitan Police has shared information such as the official support from the Home office detailing support for people affected by the London attacks.
Are you ready to live stream your announcements about the crisis? The Metropolitan Police have been using Periscope a number of times over the last two months. Yes the media is at the briefings, but that does not stop the communications team for the police force live streaming the briefing. They have also taken a recording of the live stream and published it on their Facebook Page.
In the case of the London attacks, it is getting a lot of coverage on the media, and quite rightly so. Most crisis events will not have such immense media attention – the media may only publish their edited highlights. Live streaming the event from your own channels means that you can share the news as it happens, especially as you are able to do this with a mobile device. This applies to Facebook Live, Periscope and YouTube Live. In times of crisis, the streaming of the event using Periscope and sharing to Twitter means that if you also optimise the title of the stream with relevant hashtags it will be able to be discovered in
In times of crisis, the streaming of the event using Periscope and sharing to Twitter means that if you also optimise the title of the stream with relevant hashtags, it will be able to be discovered in search including within Twitter and within Google. Remember that Twitter is also a source for breaking news.
I hope these six tips are of assistance in reviewing your own crisis response plans – and also that you never have to put those response plans into action.
Special Note: If you are a public agency or an emergency organisation, have you applied for access to Twitter Alerts? The alert registration for the Metropolitan Police is pinned to their Twitter account making it easy for people to find and subscribe to it.
When you enable notifications for Tweets from an individual account you are following, you receive a mobile notification for every Tweet they send. Alerts are sent to you as mobile notifications only during crisis situations.
If you do have questions about integrating social media and live video into your crisis communications plans, or even how you can easily implement MyNewsDesk into your communications, you can schedule a meeting with me to explore priority actions for your business.
I am delighted to have had access to MyNewsDesk to showcase in my workshops for PR agencies and communications practitioners and have been very impressed with how it can work easily and cost effectively and their support from their team has been very responsive when I have had questions about the platform. If you are struggling with implementing a news desk or online media room to support your online PR, I highly encourage you speaking with them.
Note: This article is in no way sponsored by MyNewsDesk – I discovered the Metropolitan Police were using the platform while researching for this article today. The article intiially started with the idea of sharing how the police force were using live video, but expanded as I reviewed their communications as they reported in this awful event.
My thoughts and prayers go to those affected by the attacks in London and Manchester over the last two weeks. I am not intending to share this article in the forthcoming days through my social media channels – however, I did want to curate this as an example of how we can consider using social media and live video as part of a crisis communications plan.