Many government agencies and high-profile businesses tell their employees to follow “the New York Times rule” when sending emails, drafting documents, and making business decisions. The rule is simple: if you would be embarrassed to see your conduct reported (or your email quoted) on the front page of the newspaper, think twice!
This rule sheds light on how property managers should think about handling emergencies. You should be prepared to respond to emergencies – both internally and externally – in a way that you would feel comfortable being reported on the front page of a newspaper.
Part of responding to an emergency well is responding quickly so that you are the person telling your story. Take a quick test: how long does it take your organization to send out your first communication to tenants, key stakeholders, and an official public statement when a crisis happens? One hour, two hours, three hours? Is it longer than that?
Property managers must plan ahead and be aware that a crisis could happen on their property. For example, inclement weather can affect your property or prevent key staff from commuting to work. Fires or other safety concerns may require an evacuation order. Criminal activity nearby may necessitate communicating with tenants in order to keep them safe. Right now, who is telling tenants key information? Hopefully, they are getting it from you (and not from social media or other outside sources).
Good crisis communication management helps you avoid any embarrassment. Further, with good policies and systems, you can do more than avoid embarrassment: you can control how the news story unfolds!
Consider the following tips for taking control of your news story:
(1) Make sure your tenant data is well kept and up to date
In order to effectively communicate with tenants, you need good habits for collecting and maintaining tenant data. If you don’t have a well-organized system of getting (and updating!) tenant contact information, then any crisis communications won’t reach the right people. Part of taking control of your news story is taking control of your tenant data!
(2) Come up with good internal policies and procedures for emergency management
Think through what crises could affect your property, and come up with an action plan in advance. Consider the different types of emergencies you could face and decide how you would ideally respond, take control of the story, and ensure tenant safety. For example, who will be responsible for communicating with tenants? How will you decide if you need to evacuate? Who will communicate with first responders? Make sure everyone on your crisis response team knows their role and is well trained in your emergency communication system.
A lack of preparation hampers your response time –if you aren’t prepared to respond to an emergency, you can waste a lot of time crafting a response, discussing your strategy with your team, or waiting for approval. During this time, other people may still be talking about the issue, and you miss out on being a critical part of the conversation. Your lack of preparation will give social media control of your news story (and you will lose credibility and tenant trust!).
(3) Implement a multi-channel messaging system
Crises don’t always happen at a convenient time, and they can’t always wait for someone to check their email. Take control of the story by doing everything possible to make sure crisis communications reach all of your tenants. Send both emails and text messages. Call your tenants’ landlines. By reaching out simultaneously through several communication channels, you ensure that everyone gets the message. That helps you take control of your story and tell everyone how to stay safe!
(4) During an emergency, make sure communication is a two-way endeavor
Part of taking control of the story during any emergency is making sure each sub-story is one of clear communication and, ultimately, safety. It is important to make sure each and every tenant is safe! Clear, two-way communication allows your tenants to tell you they are safe and to ask for any needed help. Then, after the initial crisis is taken care of, it allows tenants to let you know if they need special resources or any other follow-up.
Consider how your story would unfold if an unexpected event happened. If you have any questions about how to make sure YOU are the one controlling your story, contact us. Pocketstop’s RedFlag crisis communication system gives you the tools you need to take charge and control the story!