89.7 F
Washington D.C.
Saturday, July 13, 2024

COLUMN: How Simplifying Crisis Management with Venn Diagrams Can Save Lives

It’s Not a Matter of If, But Venn: An Emergency Management Perspective

Life is complicated.  A crisis is complication on steroids.  And yet, too often we make them even more complicated than necessary.  We can solve most of that with the Serenity Prayer, “…grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference….”  Unfortunately, in my experience, most folks don’t pause in the middle of a crisis to reflect on that philosophy, analyze it under the current situation, and apply outcomes.  

Since imagery empowers text and concepts, a few Venn Diagrams can be baked into emergency management strategic communication plans, be taught to the entire organizational team (not just strategic communicators), and even be printed and posted around the operation center as constant reminders of simplicity and focus. 

Venn Diagrams are named for English logician John Venn (1834-1923) of Cambridge, who explained them in his book “Symbolic Logic” (1881).  While logisticians embraced them in the early 1900’s, it was not until the 1960-s when they began a rapid level of use up to today.  Venn applied Boolean algebra to improve visual reasoning.  The diagrams are used to represent relations between entities, concepts, classes, or more generally to present information. 

Venn’s research was complicated and evolutionary.  But the result is simple.  People understand them, digest them, and process them quickly, even when they do not know what they are called.  They have become ubiquitous in textbooks, art, work presentations, and even humorous memes.   Why?  Because they work. 

I offer two similar Venn Diagrams here to advise on emergency management strategic communications.  The first is more generic and can be applied to everyone in the organization.  The second is more specific to communicators.  Most leaders are clear about what matters.  Mission and vision statements provide that clarity and direction.  Fewer leaders take the time to consider what they can actually control.  Not all bad news can be avoided.  Not all media and audiences are malleable to being shaped or persuaded.  But the intersection between what matters and what can be controlled is the sweet spot.  I did not fill in examples in either diagram overlap since they differ between organizations.  However, as an example, in a crisis, one thing that matters during hurricanes is that survivors have somewhere to go to avoid impact.    That can also be controlled.  One thing those local emergency managers can control is establishing evacuation routes.  Another is to set up recovery centers.  These also matter.  What does not matter during the crisis to those is who gets credit or who provided the food at the recovery centers.  And history has proven that emergency managers cannot fully control who evacuates and who does not.  Nor can they control which sources of information those survivors prefer.  

So, let’s transition that to the crisis communicator.  We want to tell the media all of the resources our agency provides, how well trained we are, how effectively we provide support, where the evacuation routes and recovery centers are located.  and why it is so important that survivors adhere to local authorities. Often the media will not care about the training and effectiveness (and rightly so) near as much as the survival locations.  During the life-saving stages, our self-promotion does not matter.   What the media chooses to cover, we can’t control.  Lifesaving and life-sustaining messages are the first priorities we want to tell, and the media will cover that.  We must align in the sweet spot. 

These are quick and simplistic examples.  The key is to take the time to study, research, and know what falls in the overlaps in your organization.  Include it in the strategy.  Brief them to leadership.  Rehearse them in exercises.  

Energy and priorities should focus within the overlaps.  

During a crisis, it can save time, resource and lives.  

Dan Stoneking is the Owner and Principal of Stoneking Strategic Communications ,  the Author of Cultivate Your Garden: Crisis Communications from 30,000 Feet to Three Feet , and the Founder and Vice President of the Emergency Management External Affairs Association.

author avatar
Dan Stoneking
Dan is a strategic communicator. He is a writer. His expertise is born from experience, to include his role at the Pentagon upon the attacks of 9/11; as lead spokesperson for the National Guard in Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina where he represented 54 states and territories; responding to the earthquake in Haiti where he helped establish the first-ever international joint information center; creating a coalition with the private sector to implement the first-ever National Business Emergency Operation Center; voluntarily deploying to Puerto Rico within hours of Hurricane Maria’s impact as the lead spokesperson, and much more. Presently, Dan is the Owner and Principal at Stoneking Strategic Communications, LLC as well as the Founder and Vice President of the Emergency Management External Affairs Association, and an Adjunct Professor for Public Speaking at West Chester University. Previously, Dan served as the External Affairs Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region 3, where he led an award-earning passionate team to improve information sharing and coordination between FEMA and the American public, to include media, private sector, as well as local, state and government officials during disaster preparedness, response and recovery efforts. As Director, he led his team through countless disasters, the Papal Visit (2015), the Democratic National Convention (2016), and the response to the Jan 6, 2021, attacks on our Nation’s Capital. That position followed and built upon a career in both the corporate and government arenas focused on strategic and crisis communications, to include roles at FEMA Headquarters as Director, Private Sector and Deputy and Acting Director of Public Affairs. Graduating from the University of New Hampshire, with a Bachelor’s in Interpersonal Communications, he later returned to the same campus and earned a Master of Arts in Teaching (Secondary English). Dan is a retired Army Officer and he taught High School English for two years. He is also the author of Cultivate Your Garden: Crisis Communications from 30,000 Feet to Three Feet, 2024. Dan lives in West Chester, PA with his daughters, Ivy Grace and Chloe Lane and their puppy, Fiji Isabella.
Dan Stoneking
Dan Stoneking
Dan is a strategic communicator. He is a writer. His expertise is born from experience, to include his role at the Pentagon upon the attacks of 9/11; as lead spokesperson for the National Guard in Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina where he represented 54 states and territories; responding to the earthquake in Haiti where he helped establish the first-ever international joint information center; creating a coalition with the private sector to implement the first-ever National Business Emergency Operation Center; voluntarily deploying to Puerto Rico within hours of Hurricane Maria’s impact as the lead spokesperson, and much more. Presently, Dan is the Owner and Principal at Stoneking Strategic Communications, LLC as well as the Founder and Vice President of the Emergency Management External Affairs Association, and an Adjunct Professor for Public Speaking at West Chester University. Previously, Dan served as the External Affairs Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region 3, where he led an award-earning passionate team to improve information sharing and coordination between FEMA and the American public, to include media, private sector, as well as local, state and government officials during disaster preparedness, response and recovery efforts. As Director, he led his team through countless disasters, the Papal Visit (2015), the Democratic National Convention (2016), and the response to the Jan 6, 2021, attacks on our Nation’s Capital. That position followed and built upon a career in both the corporate and government arenas focused on strategic and crisis communications, to include roles at FEMA Headquarters as Director, Private Sector and Deputy and Acting Director of Public Affairs. Graduating from the University of New Hampshire, with a Bachelor’s in Interpersonal Communications, he later returned to the same campus and earned a Master of Arts in Teaching (Secondary English). Dan is a retired Army Officer and he taught High School English for two years. He is also the author of Cultivate Your Garden: Crisis Communications from 30,000 Feet to Three Feet, 2024. Dan lives in West Chester, PA with his daughters, Ivy Grace and Chloe Lane and their puppy, Fiji Isabella.

Related Articles

STAY CONNECTED

- Advertisement -

Latest Articles