My biggest forecast for crisis communications in 2014 has to do with mobile technology.
Although it’s taken a while to implement, the power of mobile technology as it pertains to crisis communications and emergency management is beginning to be realized and actualized.
Think of it, a person’s mobile device is the only device that tends to be carried on, or placed beside them 24/7/365. This means that:
- Whether you have employees out in the field
- No matter what time of the day or night it is
- No matter where your stakeholders tend to be online
A mobile device is always within everybody’s reach.
Not to mention that mobile technology allows for:
- The development of useful apps
- The delivery of SMS
- Push notifications
What better real-time communications tool to leverage in a crisis or emergency situation?
Mobile for crisis communications began to really take shape this year
2013 already started to see some of the smartest communicators leveraging mobile to communicate with key stakeholders during crises, but especially during emergency situations.
- The City of Calgary did a phenomenal job at this during this summer’s Calgary floods and, as a result, there were zero deaths within the City on account of the floods.
- In mid November, tornados struck the midwest of the United States. The National Weather Service in Illinois sent the news of the coming tornados to local cell towers, which then sent off text messages to people with cell phones in that location, warning them of the coming tornados and giving them a good 15 minutes to prepare and seek shelter, saving lives in the process.
- Today, mobile phones are being used to predict population displacement after major disasters.
The power of mobile technology for crisis communications is limitless. The instantaneous and widespread reach can be invaluable during a time of hecticity – and can, should and will be used by organizations during corporate crises, not just for emergency management situations.
In 2014, I foresee this technology being increasingly utilized by organizations for crisis communications purposes. This includes for internal crisis communications, as well as for external.
Developing a useful app with ulterior functions
When it comes to creating a mobile app for your organization, the difficult thing is to make the app extremely useful. The goal is to provide your stakeholders with an app that they can use regularly, while also providing your organization with an easy way to communicate with your audience in real-time, if ever a crisis comes knocking. Considering that 22% of all downloaded apps are only ever used once [study], this can prove an interesting challenge.
To give you an example, Charmin, the toilet paper company, created an app called “SitOrSquat“. This app allows its users to “search for clean public restrooms all over the country. Rate and share the restrooms [they] like (sit) or note if the bathroom could be better (squat) by adding them to the map.” With hundreds of thousands of downloads, this is an app that travellers and business professionals find truly useful. And on the flip side, Charmin now has a direct way to communicate with all of these people, if they ever have the need to in a crisis.
The point is that, in order to create a useful and desired app, sometimes you need to think outside of the box. This is something important to remember if your organization, like many others, is in (or plans to be in) the process of developing a mobile app for your market / consumers / audiences.
Are you ready for 2014?
All of the above said, mobile technology is where it’s at. Has your organization began to assess and consider how the strategic use of mobile can be incorporated into your crisis communications plan?
Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.