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Communications leadership during a crisis

Presented by Grapevine Communications
in Communication, Emergency Services, Infrastructure, ONLINE FEATURE, Planning
January, 2018

In 2018, every single municipality in Canada will face some type of emergency. Are you prepared to act fast enough? As we become increasingly reliant on technology, communications, and transportation, the adverse effects of severe weather, fires, acts of terror, and even minor service disruptions become greater. It’s important to have the infrastructure, planning, and leaders in place to ensure expeditious and informative communications will reach as many citizens as possible to minimize loss of life, property, and reputation.

“In order to respond in an effective and coordinated manner to an emergency, the communications team will not only need to be prepared in advance, they will also need to be empowered and trained as leaders so they can step into action without hesitation or fear,” says Katie Robertson, CEO of Grapevine Communications and host of the second annual Municipal Crisis Communications Conference (MMC18) in Canmore, Alberta.

There are several ways in which a communications team can be empowered as leaders in a crisis or emergency situation. The best way is to remember the three P’s of crisis communications leadership:

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Does your municipality have an emergency management plan? Does it include a communications plan? How often is it updated? If you are appointed as a communications leader in an emergency situation, you will play an integral role in the proper execution of your municipality’s emergency management plan and should be involved in every step of the process, including emergency plan development.


Once you have firmly established that communications is indeed a leadership role within the emergency operations centre, there are three major areas where you, as a communications leader, should keep your skills strong:

  1. Preparing and executing a crisis communications plan.
  2. Monitoring media relations and developing key messages.
  3. Using all communications channels effectively, including social media.


If you are playing an emergency communications role, you’ll be working closely with others, who may include the Public Information Officer (PIO), Mayor, Fire Chief, and Emergency Preparedness Coordinator. Your team will significantly benefit from ongoing crises communications training – and finding ways to put those skills into practice. There are opportunities to participate in exercises both in-house and at conferences such as the MCC18, where you can practice and learn new skills with your peers. Taking advantage of these opportunities helps ensure your team will be prepared and ready for action when your municipality faces an emergency.

For more information about crisis communications leadership or the Municipal Crisis Communications Conference in Canmore, Alberta visit www.mcc18.caMW

Katie Robertson is a Communications Strategist with Grapevine Communications.

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