So the final report of the Queensland Floods Commission is out and recommends that three engineers working in the city's dam system be referred to the state’s Crime and Misconduct Commission. The story’s likely to dominate Queensland news for the next week, especially since there’s a State election in eight days time.
Putting the politics to one side and not inferring blame, there’s a lesson here for PR professionals – especially those working in crisis management. It runs along the lines of: No matter how prepared an organisation is for a crisis, a plan is only as good as the people charged with implementing it.
Most large organisations have crisis plans. Few bother to regularly test them. Many have a plan only because it required by their parent company or taxpayers.
The Lighthouse Communications crew has collectively worked on hundreds of those documents. We all agree that it’s one thing to have a plan but it’s another to invest in training the people who have to use it.
Working for one of our clients, I visited the Brisbane flood scene shortly after the waters subsided. The sight of people picking through stinking messes that were once backyards or scraping mud from the floors and inside walls of homes was devastating. It reinforced that the victims of a crisis - and those charged with managing it – are people and a natural disaster can take a heavy toll.
I recall working with another external PR consultant on a plan for a health technology company. Most of the plan was “his” intellectual property. It was actually off-the-shelf and wasn’t anything new. The colour-coded flow charts were very pretty, though, and the document looked great when it was printed and bound.
Crisis plans are not “size fits all”. They’re a prescriptive guide to what you might do when something hits the fan and people need to know how to use them.