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Why All Advocacy Orgs Should Set Up ‘Dark Sites’

In an ideal world, your organization’s website is a tightly-run ship: it provides an abundance of information for a wide audience;  it is well organized, easy to navigate and (ideally) aesthetically pleasing. But what happens when crisis strikes? Releasing critical information in a timely and effective manner requires a premeditated plan; your staff should never have to scramble to put together a crisis response on the fly. That’s where ‘dark sites,’ or response sites, come in handy. Put simply, these websites house information specific to certain anticipated crises, and can be launched at a moment’s notice.

According to Corpen Group‘s Greg Vanier and Matthew John, “The use of [dark] sites for large-scale incidents is becoming increasingly predominant and has become an expectation for incidents that have significant stakeholder impacts. They are used as a source of information when conventional information channels, such as the media, do not adequately address the information needs of diverse groups of impacted or affected stakeholders.”

In a short video clip, Ashley Mancheni, manager of the social media practice at the Public Affairs Council, weighs in:

“Work with your team to determine the top three to four crises that are most likely to impact your organization…when a crisis strikes, all you need to do is update some of the information [on your dark site]…to make sure that it’s relevant, and hit ‘publish.’” Manchini adds that a benefit of doing this work in advance is that you can vet the content through your legal counsel.

So what content should you include on your dark site? According to Mancheni, here are a few essential items:

  1. What happened in the crisis you’re facing
  2. What your organization is doing to mitigate the crisis
  3. Steps your key stakeholders should take to move forward in a safe manner
  4. Ways to contact your organization directly, and specific contact information for your media representative

Click here for more information on dark sites from the Public Affairs Council.

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