Protected appearances under conditions of mayhem is not the message for company success, when the community that sponsors the corporation is also hurt. It is better to say "we’re all in it together," rather than to say, "Don’t worry, we’re okay," because circumstances of damage, and threat of damage, have already changed the attitudinal field. Social context has a profound effect on how people respond to stressful circumstances. Securing attachment bonds is the primary protective maneuver to mitigate negative reactions to whatever role a company finds itself in during a community-wide disaster. Corporations who show leadership in building community coping by communication identification, belonging, and value will not only recover their business but build it.
A crisis event is a physic vortex for congealing cognitions, emotions\, and symbolic meanings, related to a distrubance in expectable systems of support. The most basic collective motivation is that of restoring connection for the purpose of integration. Our ability to do just that has insured our species survival. Corporate direction of public relations according to what follows peoples’ automatic instincts when activated by threat, offers new approaches for contingency planning.
Crisis communications that protect the corporation’s functional relationships present a window frame for the community to see in. This frame is derived from an identified organization of networks between activities of the emergency plan in advance of an event. The company’s best public relations approach is a proactive response to widespread concern, by reporting these networks of connected activities, with the emphasis on protecting the relationships between them. The frame for the window is not necessarily a comprehensive one, but it knows itself and it tells the community that the company’s emergency operations are occurring inside an integrated social context. The message is: We have taken action against what threatens to alienate groups and individuals. All our people are talking to each other.
Public attention will be there in the event of crisis, but community support of the business survival goals will depend upon how much the corporation involves the community in its success. Communications which stimulate the public’s partnership with striving and contribution, to make the recovery process work, link the community to a company’s enhanced role as a leader in what will help us all. The message is: Our efforts combined will stabilize conditions. We share responsibility in protecting our relationships through exchange of information. This articulation is followed by press releases to select media that offer some update on corporate human resource management, contracts for community assistance programs, and requests for community involvement in targeted volunteerism.
In the event of an emergency, the community will seek leaders to tie the social fabric back together. In the absence of such leadership, groups can form in the service of strong motivations of fear, fight, and flight. To use a popular health care metaphor, disenfranchized groups will operate as free radicals do in our bodies and may even become destructive to the social tissue that holds a society together. Corporate resources cannot cover all needs, but prepared contingency plans can act as antioxidants in orchestrating the links to all the resources that are out there.
A corporation doesn’t need to know as much, as it needs to prepare as much, for a relationship cooperation in its emergency activities. Human systems are like information systems. Both need protection. "No comment" can be a communication that fails the public’s dire need for what restores a sense of connection in the wake of disaster. Crisis public relations are opportunities for opening up how we are the same, rather than for covering up how we are different. This message comes first before reassuring the public that disaster impacts aren’t fatal.