A New Work on Crisis Communication strategies
By Jibrin Baba Ndace
Communications remains central to human existence. Communication is at the root of survival of family, groups, communities, nations and the world at large. While communications has continued to evolve due to developments in information technology, some ingredients have remained constant.
It is important in waging or wining war. It is equally vital in building and sustaining peace. It is often ignored, usually underutilized, its practitioners underestimated and undervalued.
While communication is vital in human interactions, crisis is inevitable among groups or in any setting. Indeed it is path of human existence.
To resolve or nip any crisis in the bud, communication strategy is required or better still crisis communications strategy which is an aspect of Public Relations, is needed.
Despite its centrality to human endeavours, communication is often the most ignored or neglected area. Public relations practitioners and communications experts in general have continued to draw the attention of organisations, brands, governments to the danger of not placing communications strategy at the centre of any corporate or organizational planning.
Yushau Shuaib’s award-winning CRISIS Communication Strategies is one of the intellectual endeavours aimed at filling the existing communication gaps in organisations.
Written in 10 parts and deploying eight case studies, the book focuses on best practices in communication strategy.
In his foreword to the book, Prof. Umar Pate, professor of Media and Society and former dean, Faculty of Communication and Media Studies and Dean, School of Post-graduate Studies, Bayero University, Kano, states: “without doubt, this is a worthy effort that will address a need among public relations professionals, students, administrators, journalists, civil society and many more individuals of varied backgrounds”.
Prof. Pate notes that, “the book is coming at a very critical time in the history of Nigeria when the country is enveloped with multiple conflicts and crises at different levels. Institutions are increasingly weakening in being able to comprehensively and creatively manage many of the raging and emerging conflicts and crisis situations“.
Part one captures crisis with particular attention on, ‘understanding crisis and emerging situations’. The author defines crisis and highlight types of crisis to include ‘natural, made-made, technological, confrontational and pandemic emergency crises.
Part two deals with ‘issues and crisis management.’ These include, ‘issue management’, ‘crisis management’, ‘emergency management’, and ‘reputation management’.
In part three the attention of the author is on ‘communication’, with emphasis on ‘crisis communication’. According to him, “crisis communication is a discipline and specialty under public relations practice pertaining to crisis management which does not necessarily relate to reactive notion but is a preventive measure in the anticipation of crises…“, this chapter also discusses ‘crisis communication theories such as ‘situational crisis communication theories (SCCT),’Image Repair Theory’ and The Social Mediated Crisis Communication (SMCC) Theory/Model.
Chapter four outlines, ‘Channels of Communication’ to include, ‘face-to- face’, ‘the written word’ and ‘online channels.’
In chapter five, the author discusses the role of ‘stakeholders’ and the need to ‘work with stakeholders’ in building goodwill for brands or organisations either in peace or crisis situations.
In chapter six, the author amplifies a very important aspect of public relations practice that is critical to all other components which is media relations. In this chapter he emphasizes that PR is a management function and therefore a spokesperson of an organization, ‘must be involved in management meetings and the crisis team’. He notes that, ‘the spokesperson is expected to play leading advisory roles, and take leadership in crafting of messages for the public through the media’.
The work draws the attention of readers to ‘decision-making’ in chapter seven. He posits that, ‘the major challenge before management of any corporate organization is deciding the appropriate steps or actions to be taken during crisis.’
Expectedly, chapter eight discusses ‘digital communication’. While discussing, ‘communication in digital era’, the author argues that with the emergence of technology, ‘off-line reputation management’, which is ‘one-way communication like the traditional media approach’ is giving way to ‘online reputation management which is two-way communication.’
Chapter nine focus on strategies. He discusses ‘crisis communication strategies’ arguing that, ‘strategies of crisis communication are essential in tackling problems as they unfold.’ He states: ‘in designing its strategy, an organization should anticipate crisis by creating a plan before emergency occurs.’
Chapter 10 is titled, ‘Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication (CERC)’. Here he notes: ‘risk communication is deployed to provide information on likely outcome(s) of an event due to an exposure or in terms of probabilities issuing from an incident. He lists the phases in crisis to include: ‘pre-crisis’, ‘initial’, ‘maintenance’, ‘resolution’ and ‘evaluation’.
Chapter 11, which is the last, discusses ‘Countering Violent Extremism’. Here he defines violent extremism and terrorism situating it as a global challenge with national security implications for Nigeria; noting also that this is not a challenge that can be addressed through kinetic approach alone.
The author who has practical experience in providing counter-communication measures in the fight against Boko Haram, states: “In finding solutions to acts of terrorism, an approach known as countering violent extremism (CVE) has been recommended”. He offers definition of CVE and strategies for counter narrative and ‘Rules on Social Media Engagement.’
The book has eight case studies on award-wining crisis communication strategies. These campaigns have won continental and global awards. The case studies include: ‘Enhancing inter-agency collaboration for national security’; ‘Building a team for crisis communication’; ‘Wining the social media engagement’; ‘The necessity of third-party endorsement’; ‘Publication as a tool for engagement; ‘‘The power of Media Relations’; Capacity building for productivity improvement’; and ‘Influence of newsworthy press releases’.
In the age of ‘information overload’ this new book is no doubt, a worthy addition to crisis communications libraries. The author has brought his decades of experience as public relations practitioner, spokesperson to various government agencies, publisher and PR consultant to bear in every chapter of the 190-page book.
Endorsed by President, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), Muktar Sirajo, President International Public Relations Association (IPRA) Bert De Vries, and President, African Public Relations Association (APRA) Yomi Badejo-Okunsanya, the book is as noted by Prof. Pate, “easy to read with practical cases that can enrich readers with skills and ideas on crisis communication”.
Jibrin Baba Ndace
A former Spokesperson to Niger Governor and Newspaper Columnist