Crisis communications – preparing and managing for a terrorist attack

The UK government and Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) have partnered to create a new guide to Crisis Management for Terrorist Related Events. It is published by the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) and contains a communications toolkit designed to help public relations professionals mitigate the harmful effects of terrorist incidents on brands, businesses and communities.

It is intended to provide best practice guidance on the preparation and management of communications when faced with threats from ‘hostile actors’.

The guidance encourages professionals to be wary of the diverse threats facing organisations; from left and right wing terrorism to cyber crime and hacktivism.

I’ve worked with both local authorities and businesses to help them include terrorist threats in their crisis communications planning so I can see the value of this new guide. The most useful aspect isn’t so much the advice, but the fact that it’s informed by CPNI research based on interviews with 30 communications heads and security professionals from 24 organisations that have experienced a terrorist-related incident. 

The research found that the success of communication is often determined by the strength of security culture within the organisation. As a result, the guidance encourages PR professionals to align closely with the security function as part of crisis preparations.

The CPNI is the government authority for protective security advice to the UK national infrastructure. Its role is to protect national security by helping to reduce the vulnerability of the national infrastructure to terrorism and other threats. CPNI is accountable to the Director General of MI5. There are also other nationally important assets or events, including high-profile iconic targets, where impact of damage would be equally serious even though these do not deliver an essential service. CPNI’s advice delivery extends to help the protection of such assets and events.

Disclaimer – I am a non-executive board director of the CIPR and also deliver some of its training courses including Risk Issues Management and Crisis, and Creating your crisis communications plan. Through my own business Stuart Bruce Associates I also help commercial and public sector clients to develop and review crisis communications plans.