If extraterrestrial First Contact does occur someday, there are six things that would have to be accomplished by the organization making the discovery and the primary governmental group connected to that organization.
- Reveal everything you know. Secrets will come back to haunt you and serve to undermine public trust. Reveal what you know quickly. If you wait, you risk leaks and fearful reaction from the public.
- Discuss the intentions of the aliens immediately. If those intentions are not clear, discuss that.
- Provide comfort to the public with whatever assurances you can. Let them know how you are monitoring the situation. Let the public know of precautions that are being taken.
- Involve the international community immediately. First Contact should be for all humans and all humans should feel they are represented in decision-making.
- Develop a short-term process with the international community of nations. Outline the necessary next steps.
- Communicate the process to the public and promise transparency. Transparency is the best defense against rumors and conspiracy theories.
Groups like the SETI Institute have protocols that cover a signal-based First Contact scenario. My suggested steps above would be most necessary in a Direct First Contact event, where extraterrestrials arrive in our solar system. However, many points apply to both scenarios. The key to keeping humans calm is continuing communication and absolute transparency.