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  • Jeremy Gordon

A communication crisis can arrive from anywhere at any time

This week a dramatic CNN report indicated there may be an ongoing 'leak' at the Taishan nuclear power plant in China. Understandably, this caused many people – the public, governments and probably your own customers and investors – to urgently look for answers at a time when very little firm information was available.

In reality there was no crisis at the nuclear plant. The illusion of one had been created only by the way that technical and operational information had come to light. The communication crisis, however, was absolutely genuine and continues to impact nuclear energy's reputation while rumours circulate.

This illustrates an important truth in the nuclear industry that there is sometimes little difference between a genuine safety incident and the rumour of one. Both demand robust responses in terms of management and communication.

When I worked at the World Nuclear Association I was in post as Editor of World Nuclear News during the Fukushima accident. The minute-by-minute research conducted by my team and I formed the basis not only for WNN's reporting but also for the WNA's public response and the support it provided to its members and other stakeholders in the nuclear community. This was only possible due to my team's daily practice in researching news and their regular liaison with peers around the world.

I went on to prepare a multi-stakeholder crisis communication plan for the WNA based on these lessons:

  • First of all, crisis communication must be based on competencies that are used routinely, so that you are always ready to respond.

  • Second, there must be an agreed crisis communication plan, so that the organisation can efficiently switch to focus on the questions that make a difference and the decisions that are necessary.

  • Lastly, the plan needs to be practiced regularly and improved each time according to experience.

If you want to improve or practice your organisation's crisis response I would love to discuss your needs and options.

• UPDATE: I wrote more on this topic in my column for Nuclear Engineering International magazine: Straight to voicemail.


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