Maximize Incident Response Effectiveness: Internal and external communications

by Tom Uva

This article is part of a larger series of posts related to assisting mid-market companies in maximizing incident response effectiveness. See all parts of the series. 

All high performing companies and leadership teams recognize the importance of effective, relevant and timely communications…even in the best of times.  During periods of adverse operating conditions, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, a company’s communication approach and capabilities become exponentially more important.  This is true when considering customers, employees, suppliers, regulators, financial partners, etc.  When formulating and executing the Communication portion of your Incident Response (IR) plan, the Operational and Technology experts at Elliott Davis would like to help accelerate your response efforts by sharing our expertise, cross-industry experience, and observations of working with other mid-market companies facing the same set of challenges.

Our intent is to provide you with “thought triggers” and give you simple, practical guidance for a starting point to create and/or refine the communication portion of your IR plan.  We recommend your IR Communication plan consider the following items and incorporate the ones which make sense for your specific scenario.

Do

Don’t

 

Create a simple and practical communication plan.  Focus on: content, audience, vehicle of communication, geographic location, and frequency

Communicate relevant situational awareness and status updates appropriately both inside and outside the company

Make sure all critical contact information is updated and made easily available.  Include people both inside and outside the company

Create a library of relevant pre-created/approved scripts and message templates which can be modified and implemented quickly

Consider email “auto-replies” with relevant info.  E.g. protocols for on-site access, contact info, how to get questions answered, etc.

Establish an internal incident response portal with links to related resources

Utilize notification services to support communication efforts – emergency notification services, text alerting, etc.

·Maintain contact with appropriate government agencies, international entities and industry groups about the availability of new guidance

Create plans with unnecessary complexity.  Keep it easy to execute and manage

Underestimate the importance of focusing on brand/reputational damage from misinformation about the organization’s response

Assume communication coordination will occur naturally.  Ensure one person is in charge of coordinating communication efforts and make it well known to the organization

Stop monitoring social media networks and maintaining watch regarding feedback, company perception, and external optics

Reinvent the wheel for pandemic information – utilize external sources where appropriate.  E.g. John’s Hopkins, WHO, CDC, etc.

Fail to anticipate the need to communicate your incident response plan to relevant audiences: regulatory agencies, customers, etc.

Forget to err on the side of “over-communication”, especially with associates/employees.  In the absence of good information, bad information will likely fill the void

 

We Can Help

If your organization has concerns about continuing operations, developing and implementing an incident response plan, or is working to determine the best way to serve its customers and employees, the Operational and Technology experts at Elliott Davis can help. We have a team of experts with the deep practical experience and expertise necessary to help you actively manage through this unprecedented series of events and keep your business moving in the right direction.

Tom Uva is located in the Greenville, South Carolina office of Elliott Davis and leads the firm’s Management Consulting Services practice.  He has nearly 30 years of extensive, high-quality experience in multiple industries where he held Senior Leadership roles such as VP of Business Optimization, Chief Information Officer, and VP of Operations.  Tom is also a faculty member at both Clemson University and Syracuse University, with graduate-level practices at each institution.   If you need assistance or have any questions, please contact him at tom.uva@elliottdavis.com or fill out the form below.

For more helpful resources to navigate COVID-19, visit the Elliott Davis COVID-19 Resource Center

 

 

 

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