Of those ERM programs that have a formal communications program, what does it look like?

Question asked by Gary Fouts

Additional Details

I'm creating a communications plan for the agency I support as a contractor (FEMA-FIMA). I wanted to hear the depth and breadth of other comms plans supporting ERM. Thanks.

AFERM Experts Say...

Formal communication programs are crucial for organizations striving to achieve their objectives.  One way to approach communications strategies for an Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) program is through discussion of vertical and horizontal communications.  Although a very simplistic model in principle, the discussion can prove beneficial.  A communication plan facilitates information transfer between the bottom and top levels, as well as every level within the organization and across stakeholder pools on horizontal platforms.  Simply put, a communication program can support communication up and down (support to leadership) and side to side (stakeholder to stakeholder or office to office), as evidenced by the examples provided below.

The first example addresses not just information direction, but also information flow.  This can be compared to a water spring, where information flows point to point from the bottom level of an organization through the layers to the top for decision-making, and then it is dispersed throughout the organization.  In this model, each organization at the bottom primarily transmits its information to update the top levels of the organization where decisions are made, and then risk responses and their corollary effect spread across the organization.  The primary purpose of this communication program is to provide necessary information to “leadership” for quick and conclusive decision-making.

Other organizations, however, require a more complex model that is multi-directional simultaneously.  Unlike a water spring, which is more unidirectional and cyclical, the information flow effect for this example resembles airport terminal traffic.  In this model, each terminal or department within the organization is responsible for transmitting and receiving risk information from every other node.  This can be compared to airport terminal traffic, where individuals use escalators, elevators, moving platforms, and stairs to move to and from any terminal in the airport.  The primary purpose of this type of communication model is to provide transparency and information symmetry across the organization.

The key to an effective communication program is choosing the right communication model for a particular agency, depending on where the organization is in its ERM maturity curve.  In addition, it is important to remember that as an agency matures and changes, the communication program will most likely need to evolve as well.

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