Is the ‘golden hour’ still relevant?

Those who have worked in communications for the emergency services or public safety may have heard about the ‘golden hour’. It’s actually a term given in training for first aiders about administering crucial treatment within the first hour of an incident so that chances of survival are greatly increased.

It was a term that crossed into common parlance around managing the communications during a crisis that indicated when all of your key tasks should take place. It was and probably still is widely accepted as a good timeframe to make sure Things Get Done.

However, I was first taught about this some fifteen years ago and it was still being referenced in a training session both for my medic training as a volunteer police officer and strategic communications not three years ago.

In the advent of social media, multiple news outlets and oft-updated content is it now time to ditch the term? After all, doesn’t everything happen not in the first our, but first few minutes of an incident?

Our rough diagram shows how in just ten years, the way that incidents are reported and managed have changed the way media and comms professionalism deal with an incident in quick time. Before social media there was a very linear process to issuing lines, responding to media enquiries and setting up media briefings. Now there is no predictable way of managing any kind of incident, taking the control out of the hands of the agencies. This has resulted in a shift of expectation, with the response time being dictated to by public first, then the media.

It’s not a new discussion and many organisations are making great strides in dealing with the unexpected in ways that didn’t exist years or even months ago. The key is to be as prepared as one can be and accept that it will never be perfect, you’ll never be ready and every time that something does happen it’s an opportunity to learn and adapt. This is where successful organisations will thrive - in adapting.

Admitting mistakes is one thing, but learning from them is another.

Challenges and questions

  1. How does a team that sits within the structure of a rigid organisation respond to the agile and gaseous requirements of consumer journalism and the voracious appetite for news, content or information?
  2. How can a modern comms team be effective in managing vast sources of information whilst meeting the all-important values and expectations of the agency they work?
  3. Are comms teams fit for purpose in an increasingly unpredictable and volatile environment?
  4. Is traditional media training preparing comms professionals in the public sector adequately to deal with incidents where graphic content and information overload can cause trauma in the workplace?
  5. Does your organisation allow you to fail and fail fast? What can you learn from past mistakes?


We have an easy to follow template based on our experiences in managing incidents that can be followed to assist in getting your comms house in order. Please contact us for a copy.

This article was written by Christine Townsend, CEO and founder of MusterPoint.

MusterPoint was built by a team of people who have worked in the public sector and emergency services - they know what it's like to do your job - it's affordable and simple to use.