In the early digital age, communication practitioners helped birth the creation of the “dark site”: a text-heavy website pre-populated with crisis messaging. These sinister-sounding dark sites existed as shadows of corporate websites, to be activated by corporate or government organizations in crisis circumstances.
In that age, the main channels of information about an incident were mainstream media outlets: radio, press and TV. They developed content via a mix of passerby accounts, circumstantial speculation and, sometimes, PR-led messages fed to them by the affected organization.
The goal of “dark site” communications was to focus only on incident response, and relief and recovery efforts undertaken by the organization affected by the crisis. In a crisis, all other company website information (particularly marketing and promotions) was to be blacked out or “parked” in favor of official incident-related updates.
This was before the advent of social media. Social media have killed the dark site.
Expectations of instant information
In any disaster or emergency situation, people need information to help keep them safe. They need (and expect) it quickly, if not instantly. Whether it’s support for an affected community, relief for a targeted group of stakeholders or direction for a staff cohort, real-time access to accurate, shareable information can be a matter of life and death.
Organizations used to have around 24 hours to respond to any crisis. Nowadays, several of our clients strive to acknowledge a crisis on social media within seven minutes!
Social channels demand situation intel in a snap. Social media updates are way more compelling than corporate dark sites.
Too often, organizations cannot inform crisis reports or perceptions because they do not publish or share their information with enough speed, relevance or breadth.
Around the world—from Australia to Alaska—post-crisis reviews continually criticize the ineptitude of traditional communication strategies, systems and responses deployed by corporations in crisis situations.