You might be the only person who manages the media and communications in your agency, so what happens if something happens to you?

This doesn’t have to be a catastrophic reason for your absence - it could just be that you’re delayed coming back from a vacation, move on to another role or take a sabbatical. Either way, you and those around you need to be clear on how to access key information at any time.

Putting in simple processes in advance will support everyone in doing the best job possible no matter what happens.

What is communications continuity?

Business continuity is about having a plan to deal with difficult situations, so your organization can continue to function with as little disruption as possible. This means making sure that no matter what happens, your organization will be able to get vital information out into the public at a crucial time.

The best way to do this is to provide a simple and understandable plan that can be easily accessed and give an overview of steps that need to be taken and where key information is stored.

Why should there be communications continuity plans?

Very simply, better communication saves lives. Corporate memory helps you serve the public better and you’ll be subject to less scrutiny if you are organized in your approach to communication. Internally, keeping accurate records and giving clear guidance in advance saves time and resources, which in turn reduces stress and burnout.

Check the contingency plans

Business continuity should be commonplace in every organization but have you checked the plan to see if this includes all the work you do? After all, it is a vital part of the service that is provided to the public. Before you look at anything, look at the contingency plan and see if you’re included and if you are, what it consists of. If you’re not, then it’s time to get planning and implementing. There’s nothing worse than accessing a document that is either way out of date or has no information at all.

Identify key staff in advance

When provided with the correct information up front, people don’t necessarily need to be experienced communicators. At the stage of a response to an emergency, the strategy itself should, by and large, already be created. This time is about implementing and acting on tasks. Identify confident and capable staff who can deliver pre-prepared

What to do vs what’s been done

There is rightfully a focus on what to do in the event of an emergency, but it’s just as important to look at what’s been done. This means being able to retrieve previous responses to media requests or looking at patterns of information requests and how they were handled. It’s also having the ability to review and identify where there were challenges, blockages and problems so they aren’t repeated.

Even after you have left, there may be a call to review information around the work you did. It could be in court or as part of an investigation or simply an audit. Ensure that all your communication and media work is in a place that is organized, understandable and most importantly - accessible.

Review your current systems and platforms

Are you storing information in documents that only you can access? Are you using your inbox as the main go to for everything you work on? Do you use software that only you know the password to or has a block on multiple logins? What about social media accounts?

List out all of the places that you keep information. Think about your habits of how you access this information in a pinch and if someone else would be able to easily get what they need. If they can’t, you need to adjust this access or choose a better place to store it. Media contacts, for example, need to be kept up to date and in a database that others can get to.

It’s not as time-consuming as you think

To get started, you just need to create a short document that outlines all the key information as a signpost to where things are and what to do to keep things on an even keel. It needs to be a document that is easy to read and the important information is simple to understand under stressful circumstances.

Once you’ve created your document (not to be confused with your communications strategy) you can sent it out for feedback and questions. It’s important to get feedback from those who might be called upon to use the document so you can really make sure they get all they need.

One last thing to remember - keep your plan up to date! It’s a living, breathing document that needs to be taken care of. A quick review every few weeks will make sure you and everyone you work with has all they need.

December 2, 2021

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