Emergency Communications Planning – Your Emergency Preparedness Achilles Heel?

Do you have family and friends you care for? Or do you have other responsibilities, such as being involved in law enforcement, fire, medical, emergency communications, or any other emergency services? If so, please pay attention. Being able to use most of your key emergency plans in a serious event will depend on what I discuss in this article.

Do you have a disaster preparedness plan? Or have you tested emergency response plans for your communications teams or emergency office? Maybe you’ve tested your plan with your family or friends. Maybe you’ve worked through a county-wide earthquake drill or simulated hurricane or tornado response. Many of us have done some kind of simple testing or exercise. But one very important part of these exercises is usually not covered. Specifically, what happens if you’re at work and your family is in danger? In other words, how well will those plans work if:

You aren’t where your family is or
All your key partners/team members aren’t around because they’re busy trying to determine whether their families are safe?

No Personal Emergency Communications Plan?

Most emergency operations people I meet are well-prepared for a short-term problem, with at least the three days of food and water, a CERT class certificate on the wall, first aid, CPR and other basic certificates in place. But in a recent talk I gave to an audience of emergency management professionals in government and the private sector, I asked how many of them had a written, personal emergency communication plan. The results were eye-opening. Nobody in the audience raised their hands! While it may be different in your family, on your team or in your office, the numbers aren’t surprising to me. Not many people have answered “yes” when I ask whether they have a written plan. Does your disaster preparedness plan contain a specific emergency communications plan? For most people, the answer is “no.”

Let’s think about this problem a little more: most of the people we will need to rely on during or post-disaster don’t have a personal or family emergency communications plan. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to take this one step further. If the people who are already actively engaged in emergency preparedness don’t have a personal emergency communications plan, the vast majority of people in their offices won’t either. The people we all rely on won’t be available. When we test our official plans, we assume our emergency personnel will be available. In too many cases, they simply won’t.

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How to Write Marketing Communications Plans

Marketing Communications are “all strategies, tactics, and activities involved in getting the desired marketing messages to intended target markets, regardless of the media used” (MarcommWise, 2006). Tony Yeshin (1999) defines marketing communications as “the process by which a marketer develops and presents stimuli to a defined target audience with a purpose of eliciting a desired set of responses” (Yeshin, 1999). Marketing communications are: adverting, sales promotions, personal selling, PR and direct and interactive marketing (Fill, 1999).
Consequently Marketing Communications Plan is the marketing plan which promotional plan incorporates two or more integrated marketing communications mediums aiming to reiterate the same goals and objectives. Marketing Communications Plans are considered by many professionals as an excellent way to effectively communicate with target audience.
Marketing Communications Plans are generally based on two different frameworks: Marketing Communications Planning Framework and SOSTAC (Fill, 1999).

Marketing Communications Plans consist of the following vital elements:

Context analysis

Promotional objectives

Marketing communications strategy

Promotional mix (methods and tools)

Budget schedule

Evaluation and control (Fill, 1999).

When writing marketing communications plan it is important to:

1. Set corporate, marketing and marketing communications objectives, which would support and integrate with each other.

2. Develop segmentation, targeting and positioning strategies

3. Develop creative message with which Marketing Communications Plan with communicate with target audience

4. Select and justify one or combination of marketing strategies (push, pull or profile)

5. Develop well-rounded and creative set of promotional mediums and allocate appropriate budget for each medium.

6. Create contingency planning strategy (in case something goes wrong)

7. Set strict set of evaluation and control mediums which would include milestones and continuous evaluation

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The Bank Won’t Back Your Business Because You Don’t Have a Communications Plan

A Communications Plan? “What is that?” I hear you asking. What am I getting at? Every business has stakeholders. Having a communications plan is all about how you maintain a “conversation” with the various stakeholders in your business. “Stakeholders” is simply a term that refers to anyone and everyone that has some role to play within or in conjunction with your organization – from the directors and shareholders to your customers, your suppliers, your financiers and even the community in which you operate your business.

The number one issue with having and executing a communications plan is trust. It is impossible to run a successful business without maintaining the trust of its stakeholders. Regular, honest and meaningful communication is critical to a business’ ability to relay important messages to their stakeholders and to receiving vital feedback that will keep the business on track toward successfully executing its business plan. Effective communication is the key to developing and maintaining that most elusive of business talismans – “relationships”.

Successful businesses (and business people) run on the rails of relationships and successful relationships run on the rails of effective communications. Good communication of critical issues can deepen relationships with key stakeholders – customers, prospects, suppliers, etc. Poor communication is a sure-fire way to destroy relationships or make it impossible to develop close relationships in the first place. While it is well documented that true communication is always a two-way street, having an effective communications plan for your business is decidedly about only one direction – your business communicating to your stakeholders effectively. You can only plan your communications – the stakeholders you are communicating to are ultimately responsible for their response to your communications. A great communications plan can, however, direct your stakeholders towards responding in the most positive manner possible.

But why would the bank be interested in your communications plan and in whether or not you have one?

What is it that makes a business with a clear communications plan more bankable than one that has an ad hoc approach to stakeholder communications? Well, first of all, if you’re looking to borrow some of the bank’s money, you are asking them to become one of the stakeholders in your business. If you have no structured and clear plan as to how you are going to communicate to your stakeholders, the bank has a good reason not to back you. Prove to the bank that you have the plans in place to effectively communicate with all of your stakeholders and you will go a long way toward convincing them that you are not going to become a “problem account” at the first sign of any unforeseen deviations from your well-thought out business plans.

Listed below are the keys to an effective communications plan. See if you are already doing any of these things and consider starting to do some of the ones you’re not already doing.

Quickly communicate any good news to your stakeholders. Cost savings that you can pass on to your best customers. Exceeding your sales and profit targets. Awards that your business has just won. Anything that would make any of your stakeholders happy that they are doing business with your company.
Quickly (and completely) communicate any bad news to your stakeholders. I can hear the “What – are you nuts?” responses now. But remember, the whole point here, the “number one issue” is trust. Almost any bad news can be dealt with – especially when it is addressed quickly; destroyed trust tends to stay destroyed – forever.
Don’t forget to communicate with all of your stakeholders. That means your best clients, your favorite suppliers and the business banker that has endeared himself to you like a member of your very own family. But it also means your least favorite clients, the people that take some effort to keep in communication with because you just don’t have that natural rapport with them. The best part of this is that an effective communications plan might include communicating to your worst clients, suppliers or employees that they no longer need to carry the burden of being your clients, suppliers or employees. If some stakeholder in your business is making it impossible to deal with them (or simply making it more difficult to deal with your preferred stakeholders) – effective communication might include giving them the “thanks but no thanks” talk or explaining to them the conditions they will need to adhere to in order to continue being a stakeholder in your business.
Know how much communication each of your stakeholders actually wants. Some stakeholders might be fine with an annual letter updating them on anything new that would have an impact on them. Other stakeholders may want to be in constant contact. Some stakeholders, like your bank, might actually have you agree to loan covenants that require you to communicate specific financial information to them monthly or quarterly.
Be aware of your business’ obligations to communicate certain information to certain stakeholders. The best example of this situation is the Tax Office – get your communications plan wrong with them and you will not have to worry about your business’ communication plan for very much longer.
Effective communications means finding ways to create win-win situations with as many stakeholders as possible. With more communication and the enhanced relationships that will result from better communication, you should be able to uncover many ways to make all of the stakeholders involved better off. Think better trade terms, improvements in efficiency, sharing of market intelligence, more engaged employees, better reputation in the community – the possibilities are endless!
Make sure you don’t take any of your stakeholders for granted. It is important to communicate with everyone that has a stake in the operation of your business. There is a lot of talk out there about concentrating your attention on the magical “top 20%”, but you have to balance that with the fact that some of the stakeholders that aren’t making your top 20% today might be, potentially, in your top 20% in the years to come.

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