Lessons learned from the use of mass notification systems

  • 04 Jun 2018
  • Ann

Through the many years of being a leader in a company that provides services to help business continuity professionals provide a means in which to efficiently communicate to multitudes of individuals in times of crisis, I am always in awe of the passion of those individuals for the mission they serve for their organizations.  This month I had the privilege of hosting our OnSolve User Conference and listening to some of those professionals as they discussed their lessons learned in being prepared when and if the unfortunate events happen and they need to leverage their notification systems.

Events in 2017 often called for the use of their notification solution.  The traditional “Lessons Learned” brought to light the need to always make sure that you have done everything before the event strikes.  The preparation of your notification solution is key to the success in any event.  But, the question can be asked, “Are you Ready? And, How Do You Know’.  

Here are a few takeaways from our customer panels that can provide some ideas that might help you in building a strong crisis communications program.

It’s no longer the tradition use cases, but now much more.  Extreme weather events now extend into critical communication requirements for the breach of dams, forest fires, as well as the traditional storms and flooding.  Then, add to that terrorism, civil unrest and then events such wildlife sightings in densely populated areas, VIP events and more. 

Many events are longer term emergency incidents.  These events can have lingering affects which require long-term messaging and ongoing planning.  How do we prepare for all of these and the unimaginable before it happens. As we all know, preparation is the key to success in anything we do.  

From our customer panels, we share the following for your consideration:

  • Prepare messages in advance that hopefully require minimum modification when they are needed.  Pre-approval from legal or HR might help speed the process in the event when communication is critical.
  • Consider using consistent response sequences base on a risk profile for the event.  Possibly consider the consistent definition of the response to flow from safest (the first response available to the individual, to the riskiest response).  
  • Cultures need to be considered in the construct of how the message is delivered.  In some regions, a native speaker is better received.  In other regions, it might also be best to use a female voice for message delivery.
  • Run awareness campaigns to help drive awareness and understand of the importance of the messages.
  • Drive better enrollment and successful registration of personal devices through campaigns.  Making the campaign fun and giving the participants a chance to win small daily gift cards helped one panelist increase enrollment by 25%
  • Creating score cards that measure business units and their participation, either for enrollment or successful response to notifications.  
  • Frequent use and testing will drive better response in crisis.
  • Complete and accurate data is key to success in an event.
  • Test, test and test again was a key part of success.
  • Executive buy-in is critical to understand the value and use of the notification solution.

Whatever you do, don’t forget that in crisis your notification solution is one of your most helpful tools.  I often see people restrain from using their notification solution.  Typically, their reasoning is that they don’t want to dilute the importance of the messaging when that major event happens.  Focus on the various branding techniques that are available by device type (such as HTML headers by message type for email, or different verbiage for introductions on phone calls).  By using these branding techniques, you can emphasize notifications that are most critical and at the same time get a great return by utilizing your notification system for multiple use cases. 

Your notification solution is there to help communicate and minimize the impact of any event.  Take advantage of the great tools that you have!

About the author

Ann Pickren

President, Onsolve

Ann Pickren currently serves as the President, Commercial for OnSolve, LLC. In this role, Ann leverages her deep domain expertise and years of experience in the notification industry to oversee all Customer Care functions for OnSolve, including Customer Success, Customer Support and Customer Services. As a passion, she also makes time to consult directly with OnSolve customers to help develop best practices regarding the implementation and use of automated notifications. Ann Pickren has spent 20+ years in the Business Continuity and Crisis Communications field, having held positions at Comdisco and SunGard for over 16 years. During that time, Ann served as the Senior Vice President of SunGard Availability Services, where she served in various capacities with the consulting and software practices. Her responsibilities included the management, development and support of software products for business continuity as well as the management of SunGard’s business availability consulting practice. Ann’s expertise spans all business continuity lifecycle services. Ann currently holds her MBCI certification and is a member of the DRJ Executive Council, a past board member of the BCI USA Chapter, past President and board member of the Atlanta ACP Chapter. Ann holds a Masters in Business Administration from Georgia State University. Her undergraduate studies at the University of Georgia focused in Math and Statistics.