Crisis Management: Your Website Can Help

    September 26, 2005

A website can be a valuable source of information during a time of crisis. Using your website should become part of your crisis planning.

Hurricane Katrina has shown that when a crisis strikes the Web can play its part in keeping people informed and mobilizing support. Government websites supplied important information, while other websites facilitated donations from the wider public to help those affected.

Many affected commercial entities in the region were able to keep their websites running even though many of their physical offices were badly affected. I had an email recently that talked about how electrical utilities were using their websites to deliver important information to both staff and customers.

I’m just back from a trip to Denmark and Sweden. In Copenhagen, I was told a story about a factory explosion that caused a lot of disruption. When people walked up to the police who were cordoning off the area, they were often told to check a particular website to get the latest news on what was happening.

In Sweden there have been some major storms in the last couple of years that severely impacted certain parts of the country. Again, the Web was used to keep people informed. Of course, the tsunami in January saw a huge range of web activity, from websites to help locate missing persons to those seeking donations and support.

When I was in Asia last year, I talked to an intranet manager for a large organization. He said that the intranet had “come of age” during the SARS crisis. It had become the single most important source of information for staff. For the first time, senior management had clearly recognized that the intranet could play a genuine strategic role.

I also know of a situation where during a national crisis, a series of government websites were overwhelmed. They weren’t prepared for the quantity of people visiting, nor had they content to properly answer key questions being asked.

Of course, to use the Web you have to have computer access. However, in certain ways, it still has a reach that other media does not. In Sweden, even though electricity was cut off as a result of the storm, people could drive to a friend’s house, or access the Web at work. There was practical information that was not always immediately accessible in print or on radio.

In a large organization it is not easy to consistently distribute detailed information to every member of staff on an evolving situation. The intranet is one of the few vehicles that can do this. It is, in fact, the one place that everyone has the potential to access every day.

It is still the case that many organizations see their public websites as little more than brochures, and their intranets as little more than archives. The Web has the potential to be strategic. It’s important. It matters. If people turn to it in a time of crisis, then surely that also indicates that it has an important role to play in every-day activities.

The Web is only now being understood from a strategic perspective. Of course, you need a plan for how your website will operate during a crisis. But you also need a plan for how your website delivers value on a day-to-day basis.

For your web content management solution, contact Gerry McGovern

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