Business Continuity Tip of the Month

A numbers game?

Most crisis or incident management plans contain lists of contact details (in fact some plans contain little else, but that’s another story). Generally speaking this is a very good idea, as communication is, almost without fail, the biggest issue that a crisis or incident management team has to deal with. So anything that supports and eases that process is probably a good thing.

But there are a couple of issues to consider here…

Firstly, lists of ‘phone numbers in our crisis management plans are only useful if a) they’re correct and up to date and b) they relate to the key contacts with whom we need to communicate during a crisis, particularly in the early stages. This might sound obvious, but some planners make the mistake of including the contact details of everyone they can think of, from key customers to toilet roll suppliers, and everyone in between. Much of this is unnecessary padding and only serves to make it more difficult to find the details that the team really needs.

Secondly, and more importantly, a list of contact numbers is not a crisis communication plan. A crisis communication plan includes, amongst other things, the identification of key stakeholders, an understanding of their needs during a crisis and a bit of thought about the messages that need to be communicated and the methods of doing so. That might mean the inclusion of some checklists of key actions or some proforma statements that can be customised to meet the prevailing situation. Or not, depending on the preferences and the abilities of the team members. But it almost certainly means some education and awareness and exercising and testing if it’s to be a proper, effective plan.

There’s a balance to be struck between ensuring the plan contains sufficient information and reducing its effectiveness by including too much superfluous stuff. The bottom line, though, is that a list of ‘phone numbers isn’t really much of a plan.