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How companies and public authorities can prepare themselves for a crisis in terms of communication with citizens

Communication for Citizens in case of a crisis

At this year's nationwide LÜKEX crisis management exercise, public authorities and gas suppliers rehearse what to do in an emergency: What happens if gas supply in Germany reaches its limits? The exercise is carried out by the Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK), who also placed the topic of communication on the agenda of the fourth preparatory LÜKEX Theme Day. On the Theme Day on 12 and 13 September 2018 the participants of the crisis exercise met at the Academy for Crisis Management, Emergency Planning and Civil Protection in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrnweiler near Bonn. The event was also attended by representatives from federal and state authorities and utility companies.

Our plea: Energy policy projects need citizen communication - especially in the event of a crisis!

Johanna Härtl from our Citizen Communication team spoke about the importance of social acceptance of energy policy projects. The plea: Energy policy projects can fail due to a lack of public acceptance - especially in the event of an acute crisis. Every energy policy project needs well thought-out and appropriate communication. In the event of a major emergency, public authorities and utility companies must be able to rely on the approval of the country’s general public. Because if gas supply breaks down and members of the public question the authorities’ recommendations for action, this can lead to chaos and further exacerbate the crisis situation. 

“Trust” is a currency that is earned through effective communication

What public authorities and companies need in the event of a crisis in order to reach the public and to have room for manoeuvre are acceptance, kudos and trust. Only if you are recognised as a legitimate authority by the public and if the public feels they are in good hands will you be able to stay control in the event of a crisis. Public authorities and companies must not take this trust for granted. Survey results tell us that state authorities, company representatives and the media are not held in high regard by the public. Firefighters or doctors, on the other hand, enjoy the highest level of trust among the public; while this does no harm in the event of a crisis, it does not help the crisis management of the authorities.
What does help is a long-term communication strategy that brings citizens and the relevant authorities closer together - even before the crisis. Citizen communication can help build trust and reduce the element of the unknown, which in turn means that citizens know that they can count on the authorities and energy providers in an emergency and the authorities and energy providers know that the behaviour of the public is not a completely unknown quantity. 
There is of course no magic public relations formula, but for citizen communication to bear fruit in the long term, it must meet the following criteria:

  • proactive and open to dialogue
  • early and long-term
  • tailored to the target groups and on the appropriate channels
  • easy-to-understand and straightforward
  • appreciative and citizen-oriented
  • sincere and truthful

More on this subject:

Further information and download options for this year's LÜKEX exercise can be found directly to the Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance: LÜKEX

Our services: Communication for Citizens and Crisis Communication

 

Your contact person

Johanna Härtl

Johanna Haertl
+49 911 530 63-108
jha[at]kaltwasser.de