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What does the US Congressional budget fight and crisis communications have in common?

While they may seem like very different things, the recent congressional budget battle has many similarities to what happens during a typical crisis. It also highlights some of the challenges for clear and precise communication in action.

For example:

1. Imperfect information. During the budget battle, the Democrats said the impasse was caused by X and the Republicans said it was caused by Y. How do two people looking at the same set of facts draw different conclusions? How in a crisis situation do your managers, constituents, the press, all look at the same event and draw different conclusions?

2. Competing interests. In the budget battle, as in crisis situations, you will have different parties with different interests, making the job of the emergency managers more complicated. In the example of a corporation, the crisis managers may be looking after only employee safety, the business managers may be looking after the business and how to minimize the costs associated with an incident, and HR and legal may be concerned about privacy or other legal issues related to the event. There are always competing interests during any incident that need to me managed.

3. Inconsistent communications. The Republican message during the budget battle was saying one thing while the Democratic message was saying something else – at the same time and at different times. It took right up until the end before the message merged into “we have a deal.” This is typical of what happens during any incident. Some individuals get one message, some get another, and some may get the same message and interpret it differently. What is important is to try and ensure message consistency in the delivery of the message to your audiences, which is where incident notification solutions come in, and its equally important to have your audiences interpret the message the same way, which is why it is so important to map your messages out in advance of a crisis to ensure that you have validated them for interpretation.

4. Multiple channels of communication. The Republicans were on Fox and the Democrats were on CNN – so where were the “independents?” In a crisis, you have multiple channels of information – phones, emails, text messages, the TV, Radio, etc. etc. Having a consistent means for communicating across the channels that your constituents use is critical to ensuring effective messaging in a crisis.

These are just a few examples of how crisis communication and the US Congressional battle have a lot of similarities. Please share your comments or thoughts on what other similarities you see between these two types of events.