When a Leaked Chat Becomes the Crisis

Best Practice Guide

In crisis, communication matters. It matters a lot.

When communication fails, so does crisis response. That not only goes for external communications to the press and public, but also for internal communications within crisis teams.

But while many teams understand the value of external communication, practitioners tend to feel that their teams still underestimate the value of internal communication to crisis.

Perhaps, the problem is teams resist thinking of crises as extended events. But the fact is before the trigger event, there are usually warning signs to be read, identified, and disseminated among team members, especially during the following two stages:

1. Signal detection. When warning signs are identified and acted upon to prevent crisis.

2. Probing and prevention. When teams are searching known crisis risk factors and working to reduce potential harm.

At these stages, in particular, crisis teams will often exchange clues, hunches, and premonitions in an informal manner. They often do so via software like chat, which has surged in popularity, not just in crisis management but also in the culture more broadly.

Case in point: three quarters of mobile users now prefer instant messaging over other forms of communication, like email. The free messaging services, WhatsApp, WeChat, and Facebook Messenger, each command around a billion active users, spread out across advanced and emerging markets alike.

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