Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Komedy of Korporate Kommunications

By XTCfan

I work in the corporate communications department of a large financial firm based in Washington, DC. Late last Thursday, we started to get questions about the recent liquid-based travel troubles, and how they might affect the company.

Though we have a company policy that limits business travel when the country as a whole is at an Orange alert, we don't have a policy that covers sector alerts. Because the troubles seemed mostly centered around travel from the UK (which didn't affect us), we decided that our travel policy did not need to change, and that managers could communicate this on an as-needed basis, so as not to monger any unnecessary fear. By Friday, however, the news was full of reports on travel delays throughout the US, and the questions had increased to the point where we knew we had to respond with a companywide message.

After spending all day Friday on this -- working with dozens of people around the firm, creating multiple drafts, changing plans and tactics several times, incorporating the (sometimes contradictory) comments of reviewers at all levels of the company -- the fruits of my labors were ready to reveal, via an e-mail message that went out to all company employees at 5:16 p.m. EDT:

Given recent travel-related events, employees have raised questions about business travel.

Though the Department of Homeland Security has raised the Threat Level for the aviation sector to Orange, the national Threat Level remains at Yellow. Consequently, [company name] will not restrict business travel, but asks that those traveling on company business use their best judgement. Employees should work with their managers to decide whether the benefits of a trip outweigh the possible adverse effects on productivity that travel delays may have.

For more information about the additional security measures at domestic airports, visit the Transportation Security Administration Web site.

Five sentences, 99 words. But they're the right 99 words.


Blogger Kevin Wolf said...

Seems plenty clear to me but there's always somebody who has a stupid question.

At least that's been my experience.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006  
Blogger XTCfan said...

There was a follow-up early this week from an employee who complained that we focused only on the productivity-loss aspect of the delays, and ignored the fear-of-flying issue that some may have had as a result of the foiled terrorist plot.

Fair enough, I suppose. I'd brought up (and, I hoped, dealt with) the point in one of my drafts, but it was deleted by the Powers That Be, who were concerned that we'd create more fear than we quelled.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006  
Blogger fgfdsg said...

I'm rapidly wondering if there will be anyone left who wants to fly soon. That's probably the way they want it too.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006  
Anonymous Mike said...

Simon, travel broadens a person's mind. Can't have that.

Thursday, August 17, 2006  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...

The timing isn't so great for me - getting a travel gig as this shit starts to heat up.

Oh well - might as well go out in a blaze of glory whilst the rest of you just fade away...

Thursday, August 17, 2006  
Blogger fgfdsg said...

Yep Mike, I was having a conversation the other day with a mate about all this fuss, and that's basically the point I made.

Friday, August 18, 2006  
Blogger Blowing Shit Up With Gas said...

I just had a weird, not-too-related thought: While I'm perfectly happy to fly anywhere, I understand that some people are simply afraid to fly. I mean, even if terrorism didn't exist, fear of flying isn't totally irrational. After all, you're basically riding in an enclosed, pressurized cabin, traveling at 500 miles per hour, 30,000+ feet up in the volatile jetstream, strapped to jet engines linked to thousands of gallons of explosive fuel, and at the mercy of a human pilot who's probably overworked and pissed off about the state of the airline industry. Add to that the fact that, while crashes are rare, there's hardly ever any reported survivors when they do happen. Who needs terrorists to be scared?

Funny how those memos always go out at 5:16 p.m., though. That time seems to indicate that whatever the issue is, it's been dealt with by someone for the entire day, as you described.

Friday, August 18, 2006  

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