Archive for August 6th, 2008

When bosses don’t get it

August 6, 2008

I was talking not long ago with a senior communication manager working for a very large corporation who is trying to get his boss to agree to acquire our communication management system. The purpose would be to have the ability to communicate instantly with a large group of employees, customers, management team members as well as the media if a major incident occurred–particularly involving a large complex with thousands of people at risk.

The manager didn’t really see the point. He was asked: if something happens here, how do you expect you will find out about it? He answered: Channel 2 news.

This is what we talk about when we say some people just don’t get it. Here’s why:

– how does he think Channel 2 and all the others will get that news to give to him? The communicators have to be able to communicate instantly with those news channels or else everything they get will come via police scanners, eyewitnesses and bloggers.

– After the fact, he will likely be one of the first in line to scream and yell: why wasn’t I informed about this directly? When it hits the fan, suddenly execs and communicators have exceptional demands from all kinds of people who have every right to think they should be on the top of the call list.

– Does he really want to trust the information about what is happening to his company and his employees to the hands of people whose overriding interest is in attracting an audience as big as they can so they can get max dollars for their ads? That’s what the media business is–no criticism intended, but if something happens at that facility, it simply becomes a way to grab a big audience–if it bleeds it leads.

As another senior communicator recently pointed out, communicators are in a tough spot. They have a devil of a time getting the resources and technology they need to get their job done. Then, when it hits the fan, they are asked why aren’t you more prepared? That’s why a lot of them lose their jobs after a big event.

I want to suggest a solution to all you communicators out there: 1) send your CEO and leadership group my book Now Is Too Late–it is my best attempt at addressing this problem of not getting it. 2) Beg, plead, cajole–do everything you can to get your bosses to run a realistic large-scale incident drill. Drilling reveals the gaps and problems better than anything except a real incident.