Michele Boxley, Account Director, Palio

Most businesses – certainly, most businesses that have been through a crisis – understand the value of a good disaster plan. Whether you’re an advertising agency like Palio that specializes in pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing, or any other kind of business, when trouble strikes, that’s exactly the wrong time to be sorting out how to talk to customers and the media, or how best to communicate with employees.

So, if we stipulate the value of having a plan in place, then what goes in it? Or, more specifically, how can you leverage the new social, digital and mobile communication tools when disaster strikes? And what should you watch out for? Consider the following:

Have a formal cascade of options. If disaster strikes and you need to communicate with a far-flung workforce, employees should have no question about which channel or tool is the right one for official company updates – that’s a core component of most disaster plans. But, what if your primary tool is damaged or unavailable? Depending on the scenario, it’s possible for email, phones and the company intranet to all be down simultaneously – and that’s when employees need to know what other official options exist.

Keep risk management front and center. The organizational imperative in a crisis is not to communicate with everyone and anyone who wants information – that’s a time sink, a risk and a distraction. Rather, the imperative is to manage risk at every turn. That means looking at social, digital and mobile communication tools through two lenses, at once both weighing their potential to quickly reach a dispersed and mobile workforce, and understanding their potential to generate distracting and counterproductive public chatter in a crisis if not properly managed.

Your vendor’s disaster could be your disaster as well. Many organizations have embraced enterprise-level social collaboration platforms like Socialtext, gaining great benefits from the software-as-a-service model. But, that begs the question: What happens when disaster strikes a core communications vendor? If your organization can’t afford the lost productivity of downtime, go beyond simple service level agreements with strategic communications vendors, and ask to see their actual disaster and business-continuity plans. Not only will you have more insight into their resiliency during a disaster, but you may walk away with ideas for how to better prepare your own organization.

Social and mobile media are an incredible asset in a time of crisis, particularly as today’s workforce gets out of the office and into the field in ever greater numbers. However, “social for the sake of social” is never a good idea – especially in crisis and disaster communications. So, explore your options, but don’t assume anything is a must-do just because social currently gets so much attention.

Palio is an advertising agency revolutionizing pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing to create experiences that will Never Be Forgotten.

© 2011 Palio.com