Several years ago, the Coast Electric communications team spent time with communications professionals at Baldwin EMC and CHELCO developing comprehensive crisis communications plans. Part of our planning process was going through a sort of worst-case scenario exercise where we listed every crisis we could think of that would affect our members. When we were finished, we had a list of hundreds of possible scenarios. Pandemics were on our list and, while we didn't think a pandemic was a far-fetched idea, I could probably list dozens of others that I thought were more likely.
Looking at that long list of possible crises was a little intimidating. As we looked at each issue and began determining how we would communicate, I started to feel more confident. I can't tell you how often it has been a comfort to quickly pull up a file or flip to a page in our crisis plan when the unexpected happens.
Of course, our plans can't predict everything that will happen. When we communicate, especially during a crisis, we must be able to adapt. Our plans may be great guides, but we have to be able to call an audible or two. Or 20. Even so, having a place to start helps. It can keep you grounded and on task. If you plan ahead and get buy-in from others at your co-op, your plan can also remind others about the importance of and purpose for a communications process and flow.
I encourage you to take time each year to look through your plan. What's missing? What needs to be updated? Who do you need buy-in from before the crisis hits so you can effectively do your job? Your plan will never be perfect, but having one always helps.
Through this crisis, it has been inspiring to see what co-ops have done to connect and help their communities. Cooperatives across the country have reworked collections and deposit policies, adjusted Operation Round Up programs to offer energy assistance, and have been a source for information about energy efficiency, electrical safety and even home-school materials for parents. Co-op employees have made masks, donated to food pantries and honored those on the front lines of this crisis. Some, sadly, have had to deal with the pandemic and help their communities rebuild after storms.
Whatever the challenges have been over the past weeks and months, co-ops have played a role in not only keeping the power flowing but in helping the economies of the communities they serve and bringing hope to members. As communicators, we get to tell those amazing stories. While I won't say there is anything good about this virus, I will say that seeing the adaptability and creativity of my fellow communicators has been inspiring. It makes me more grateful than ever for Cooperative Principle Six – Cooperation Among Cooperatives.
I hope you all stay safe and healthy and can't wait to see you all in person sometime in the future!