The same question applies to any emergency response plan or equipment. How do you know your liferaft will inflate when you drop it over the side?
There are five steps to quality controlling your choice of maritime media management systems (and they’re similar to the steps you should follow when choosing a liferaft).
- Trusted product: Choose a crisis communications company that is trusted by others in your industry. A globally trading fleet needs a company with a global footprint and the recognition and trust of your major charterers and stakeholders. Signing a contract with your mate’s mate who runs a communications business, probably isn’t a good idea.
- Proven track record: Ask your crisis communications company to tell you about some of the recent incidents they have managed. After you’ve heard their side of the story, review the coverage for yourself and decide if you would have been happy if it was your company involved. If not, talk to them about what went wrong and what the lessons are for next time. If you’re not satisfied, then look for another provider.
- Straightforward activation and redundancies: When you need the system to work, it needs to work easily. Look for a simple activation process (one number rather than a complex list). Also, look for backups upon backups – even the best switchboards and email systems can fail (just ask British Airways). What if your vessels are targeted by a cyberattack that is disrupting communications around the world, will you be able to communicate with the crisis support you’re counting on?
- Testing and inspection: You wouldn’t put an untested liferaft on your vessel so don’t put an untested crisis communications plan in your office. People sometimes mistake a single answered telephone call for a successful test. That’s the equivalent of making sure nobody has stolen your liferaft – a good first step, but only a start. Demand a fuller test. Does the response company have the connections on the ground, that you’ll need? Can they deliver high quality media statements and other content? Can they rapidly scale up their response and remain active indefinitely? Run a simulator-based exercise to really test everyone involved.
- Training: Your team must be trained to manage crisis communications. No matter how good your crisis comms agency is, at the end of the day they’re a tool and if your team can’t work with the tool effectively, your crisis response is destined to fail.
Set it and forget it doesn’t work for crisis communications or for any other emergency response systems.
We have seen companies pay (often over pay) for crisis communications standby support for years only to have it stumble and fail spectacularly in the face of a major incident, because they never bothered to do any quality control for their crisis response system.
So, if you haven’t evaluated your crisis comms plans in a while, now’s the time, do your due diligence and check (I mean really check) the response systems you have in place.
COO & Crisis Response Manager
T: +44 (0)20 3326 8467