What a crisis requires, beyond a barebones plan
The recent Wall Street article stating that Tokyo found the nuclear reactors in a worse state than previously announced underscores the need for honest, factual information for public consumption, and the importance of media in delivering this communication. The age where authorities view the public as a panicky wildcard that needs to be soothed, rather than as an equal partner in mitigating and recovering from a disaster, must come to an end – especially in a world where, thanks to the internet and information networks, information is disseminated to a wider audience at a faster rate than history has ever experienced before.
Was the community immediately surrounding Tepco’s reactor integrated in mitigation efforts prior to the incident? Subsequent actions and the announcement of possibly 30 billion dollars in claims indicate the opposite. Instead of secrecy and isolation, Tepco needs to present honest messages and an improved business continuity management program which encourages public involvement. If this is done, the reputation of Tepco as well as the global nuclear industry can be strengthened rather than degraded. If Tepco possessed a professionally designed corporate intelligence center that could guide the company towards the most effective decisions while simultaneously optimally utilizing its resources, there would be a very different corporate image presented than what we see now.
Regardless of the industry, companies as well as governments can no longer afford to keep at arm’s length a full integration and utilization of information networks, which necessitates a realignment in how to view the audience as a whole. Honest messages will prove the most effective, and gain more public support in incident resolution than 20th century-style public obfuscations.