Crisis Planning For Operation London Bridge

By Caroline Coskry

A sensitive subject but the reality is that no one really wants to have to plan for the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. However, if you don’t plan your communications well around the time, you might face backlash, particularly if any of your scheduled content is inadvertently disrespectful.

Earlier in March, The Independent revealed that the secret plan, after the Queen dies, has been updated.  Known as operation London Bridge, the plan includes a governmental social media blackout.  So, is it appropriate to follow suit?  While some may wait and see what happens on the day, lack of time to prepare might be where some brands fall short.

The last time a British monarch died, 65 years ago, the demise of George VI was conveyed in a code word, “Hyde Park Corner”, to Buckingham Palace, to prevent switchboard operators from finding out.

According to The Guardian, when the Queen dies, the announcement will go out as a newsflash to the Press Association and the rest of the world’s media simultaneously. At the same instant, a footman in mourning clothes will emerge from a door at Buckingham Palace, cross the dull pink gravel and pin a black-edged notice to the gates. While he does this, the palace website will be transformed into a sombre, single page, showing the same text on a dark background.

For people stuck in traffic, or with Heart FM on in the background, there will only be the subtlest of indications, at first, that something is going on. Britain’s commercial radio stations have a network of blue “obit lights”, which is tested once a week and supposed to light up in the event of a national catastrophe. When the news breaks, these lights will start flashing, to alert DJs to switch to the news in the next few minutes and to play inoffensive music in the meantime. Every station, down to hospital radio, has prepared music lists made up of “Mood 2” (sad) or “Mood 1” (saddest) songs to reach for in times of sudden mourning.

While many public sector organisations will have a strategy already in place, every business needs to do the same.  When you think about it, decisions made at this time of mourning may be reactive or rushed so a small plan is perhaps a better option.  Just a few questions to get you thinking:

  • Will you pause social media? Or will you have some posts created in readiness that focus on a tribute / life celebration.
  • What does the Queen’s death mean to your audience? Will the uncertainty cause panic? Will the market suffer briefly as a result?
  • Do you have stories you can share about the Queen’s visit to your organisation? If so, could this be written as a blog and shared to celebrate her life
  • Do you change your website / social media profile pictures temporarily to mark respect?

At Oracle, we are making plans, just because that’s what we do.  And while I find this whole blog incredibly sad, I want to be prepared to show the greatest respect for a woman who put her own feelings aside and served our country with great strength.  I’m no royalist but I have such admiration for a lady who every day, ‘just gets up and gets on with it’.