Sunday, June 10, 2012

Nothing New Under the Sun...

Nothing is new under the sun...but a whole lot is changing!

I just read through a chapter of W. Timothy Coomb's book: Ongoing Crisis Communication, Planning, Managing and Responding (2012 Sage Publications). In chapter 2, titled: Effects of the Online World on Crisis Communication, Comb argues that social media has not revolutionized crisis communication but has merely been an evolution of the same.

Coombs writes:
"We should remember that people did essentially the same communication tasks prior to the Internet.  However, it took more time, effort and resources to accomplish them." Page 19
We in the SMEM community are quick to share the newest trick and quickest way to post our information but have we really revolutionized the crisis communication world?  I think that Coombs may be more correct then we would like to recognize.  Coombs continues his theory stating:
"Crisis managers still face the same needs to identify warning signs, confront the same basic communication demands, utilize the same concepts, and must enact effective strategic responses [...] Crisis managers are faced with demands to create a quick and accurate [...] Crisis management plans (CMPs) and crisis teams still compose the heart of the crisis management effort [...] Crisis managers must weight key crisis factors and devise an appropriate and effective crisis response" Page 19-20
None of these concepts are nothing has changed right? Not so fast...of course things have changed!  Coombs recognizes this and continues:
"What has changed is how the information is collected, and in some cases, how that information is processed [...] what has changed is what constitutes "quick" and how that initial response is delivered [...] what has changed is how CMPs are stored and accessed and how team members interact with one another [...] what has changed are the ways of identifying critical crisis communication and how their messages are delivered." Page 19-20
So a lot has changed! Today's communication tools and tactics have dramatically changed even as our overarching goals and tasks remain the same.  Coombs concludes the chapter stating that:
"The Internet, especially social media, is helping crisis managers execute existing communication-related tasks rather than creating the need for entirely new ones.  But crisis managers would be engaging in malpractice if they did not integrate social media into their activities." Page 29
Nothing is new under the sun.  Crisis communication has existed from the dawn of society. Their are proven plans, goals, and purposes that must be remembered.   Yet at the same time their are new and improved communication tools and tactics that must be embraced.  This leads to the spinning conclusion that nothing is new under the sun but a certainly a whole lot is changing!

This is a paradox that the modern emergency manager must recognize and embrace.  The old and the new must mix to create a communications strategy that fully integrates the proven goals of the past with the ever evolving tools and tactics of the present.

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