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Gen X and crisis communications

Our challenge is to move with the times; so a senior former Foreign Office (FO) and corporate security man said in a webinar today about crisis communications.

He was Mike Croll, who for the critical event management software company Everbridge went over what millennials (‘the i-generation’, or snowflakes if you want to be rude) think and expect of their employers in a crisis. As Mike showed in a masterful presentation, the changes across generations have been extraordinary.

We have to recognise, he concluded, that channels of communications are more diverse, and workforces are more dispersed. Messages in a crisis need to be targeted to the individual – whether about the pandemic as employers manage returns to work, and what they do if someone reports sick, or pre-pandemic floods, protest demos or acts of God or terrorism. Also, as Mike said, expectations are growing; not just of the 999 services, but of employers, not least in terms of speed of response.

Earlier, Mike ranged over those changes in recent generations, and what demands that places on security and crisis managers, who whatever the incident – and Mike took in 9-11, 7-7, the Asian tsunami, and the Icelandic volcanic ash that grounded international flights for days in 2010 – Gen X always-connected young people, who take their own security and safety seriously, while mistrustful of authority, expect their employer to carry out a duty of care.

While authoritative, at times Mike’s presentation was humorous, noting that we have come (well within living memory) ‘from Angela Rippon to Alexa’; that is, from watching the television news twice a day to learn what’s going on, to having rolling, 24-hour news, where speed is balanced by accuracy; to asking a home assistant what the news is, tailored to us. Likewise, Gen X workers expect their employer to provide tailored alerts whether the incident is a flood or fire or act or terror or a pandemic-related office closure – and those millennials want the alerts to come through a channel that they use – not email.

About the speaker

Mike Croll is a former security man at the Foreign Office and Facebook – where he was an EMEA security manager; Mike last year wrote and posted on Linkedin one of the most insightful and important, and at times amusing, essays on corporate security around: Inside Facebook’s Security Team; heaven or Hal? (referring to the HAL 9000 computer in the science fiction book and film 2001: A Space Odyssey).

Mike was followed by a presentation of the Everbridge product, as commonly used by corporates and governments, to alert users of weather or other incidents, requiring action such as evacuation; or used by businesses to account for and notify staff; besides in a pandemic context around ‘return to work’ and contact tracing.

Later, Suzanne Cross, VP Northern Europe at Everbridge moderated a discussion between John Ludlow, CEO of the risk management association AIRMIC; Owen Miles, Technical Director, Everbridge; and from the consultancy Control Risks, James Lythe, Associate Director, and Charlotte Megarity, Senior Security Consultant.

Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson is among the speakers at an Everbridge ‘COVID-19 R2R: The Road to Recovery’ ‘virtual leadership summit‘ on October 14 and 15, aimed at C-level executives.

More in the October 2020 print edition of Professional Security magazine. Photo by Mark Rowe; Smithfield, central London.


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