5 early communication lessons from Japan’s nuclear crisis

There’s no undoing damage that’s already done. Make sure you don’t further unnerve your public with faulty, unclear or misleading updates.

What early communications lessons can we learn from the potential nuclear tragedy in Japan? A lot—particularly for those working in the nuclear or chemical industry.

From a PR perspective, spokespeople must be honest, proactive, have an effective internal flow of information, ditch scientific language, and practice their crisis response.

For more than 10 years, I’ve had the privilege of working for the Ameren Nuclear plant in Missouri conducting the communications portion of its annual disaster drills, many of which were monitored by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

We practiced worst-case scenarios that many Ameren employees felt were highly unlikely, but worth the time and effort in case an event occurred. Given what is happening in Japan, their time was well spent.

1. Be honest. Though this might seem obvious, the public is questioning whether the Japanese government and industry spokespeople are telling the “whole” truth.

The Guardian reports, “Conflicting reports from the damaged nuclear plant have deepened alarm over Japan’s management of the crisis, leading to charges that the authorities are actually making the situation worse.”

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