Dark sites, blogs & crisis communications.

BP Gulf of Mexico Response SiteA “dark site” is a website which “sleeps” offline but  can be activated in a matter of seconds by a communications professional when a crisis strikes. It can then serve as the central location for regular situation updates during the crisis.

While a “dark site” doesn’t necessarily need to be based on a blogging platform, it does hold a couple of very important advantages:

  • A blog is content focused and can be managed by non-technical professionals - no need for the IT crew to update a webpage, the communicator can completely control the crisis site.
  • Updates are written using a standard word processing interface with “what you see is what you get” features.
  • A blogging platform makes the best use of RSS feeds in publishing mode, allowing for easy and automatic content syndication to other social media platforms like a Twitter channel or a Facebook page.
  • A blog can contain text, but easily integrates video, audio, files or a combination of these.

Many “dark sites” are pre-defined in the way that they can be created to cater to each scenario which has been defined in the crisis planning phase.

Organizations can have a “dark site” for a fire incident, a flooding scenario or anything else defined in the plan.

Typically a “dark site” would be used as a direct communications and updating vehicle, but can also contain;

  • pre-determined frequently asked questions lists,
  • facts and figures related to the company or incident,
  • video files or infographics

...and many more pieces of information which can easily be prepared in advance according to the crisis scenario.

Once the crisis strikes, the blog or “dark site” is put online, advertised as the place to be for crisis updates, linked to other channels and then managed by the communications professional who is part of the crisis management team.

Article originally published in Communication Magazine - Author: Philippe Borremans - Date: July 1, 2010

Next: Linking it all together and using social media after a crisis.