The Situation Brief (+ How to Create One)

Falling dominos with a hand blocking erect ones.

We’ll be brief, because you’re busy.

That’s the tone and tenor of the times, isn’t it? BE BRIEF.

Those of us who are busy are really busy. In this time of crisis, there is so much to coordinate, so much to communicate, that we have to be brief.

Enter the Situation Brief.

We were recently introduced to this idea by the Franklin County government of Massachusetts, which has been releasing regular COVID-19 Situation Briefs.

The basic idea: communicate early, communicate often, and be brief. These are all crisis communication best practices recommended by the World Health Organization, and summarized on our Coronavirus Communication cheat sheet.

How it works: county officials gather all the relevant agencies together for regular briefings, then distill their updates into these Situation Briefs, which are one-page snapshots of all the COVID-19 activity in Franklin County.

They get the job done. And that’s what we need in these times.


Avoid the Overthink

We all tend to overthink our communication.

We’re guilty of this, too. As a media and communications company, it used to take us forever to send out newsletters, because they had to be perfect.

When Coronavirus hit, we went the opposite direction: frequent communication about “best practices” across our clients, across industries. Be as helpful as we can, as much as we can, as fast as we can. Share as much good information as possible, as widely as possible, as quickly as possible.

Guess what? People are finding this newsletter format far more useful. And business is booming.

During the Coronacrisis, we don’t have time to overthink. Things are so fast, so frenzied, so frenetic, that we have to find new ways to function. The Situation Brief is a lightweight communication tool that you can use for your business, your nonprofit, or your internal team.

– Get the high-level info into one document that’s easily scanned (one page is best).

– Put it into a template that you can easily update as the situation changes.

– Meet with the team on daily “scrums” to update with “conditions on the ground.”

– Get it out to your mailing or distribution list ASAP.

– Iterate and improve.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be pretty. People are inundated with information: you’re lucky if they even give it 30 seconds. Don’t get it perfect, just get it done.

Tell people the situation. And be brief. That’s the essence of the Situation Brief.


5 Business Best Practices During the Coronacrisis:

> Consider regular “Situation Briefs” to update your team or your customers on where things stand.

> Do Situation Briefs as long as they’re useful. When they’re not, stop.

> Keep an attitude of “Don’t get it perfect, get it done.” Then iterate and improve.

> Remember that you don’t need permission to do the right thing. Just do it.

> Spend 10% of your time helping others.

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