14 Jul Company Lessons for a Crisis Simulation
The Crisis Training “Top Seven”
A few weeks ago we managed a mock crisis simulation at one of our client’s premises to test their crisis communications plan. Not only is this a good practice for any company, but repeating the training at regularly scheduled intervals can be extremely useful, as candidly speaking, the first attempt is usually the worst.
Our president, Casey Boggs, relates practicing for a crisis to practicing the skills and drills for a big ball game; you wouldn’t play the Super Bowl without preparation, would you?
Simulating a crisis does feel a lot like playing a real-life game. It was fun to engage with my co-workers role-playing as first responders, a 911 attendant, hospital staff, family members, representatives from the media, and then act as the public relations professionals we are when alerted by the company about the crisis.
Our mission in a crisis drill is to uncover where communication breakdowns occur. For companies participating in a crisis role-play, it also helps them prepare to be compliant to the highest degree should there be an investigation after a true crisis.
Prioritization is the Name of the Game
A crisis-training is a good exercise in applying logic around what has to happen, and determining what you can do before a crisis occurs. Once you have the elements in place, you can start fine-tuning. When you do a simulation in a pressure situation you can see where the snags occur.
Though a crisis drill is executed a little differently for each industry, we’ve gleaned these “Top Seven” Crisis Training Tips to help clients in nearly any situation:
Tip #1: Delegation is Essential. Know in advance who you are going to delegate responsibilities toward, and that you can trust those people. Alternates need to be clearly identified, and it is a good idea to have it all in writing.
Tip #2: Create a Crisis Team—with Assistants. When a crisis happens, the key people need more support people. A single person can’t get back to everyone who needs an update. Assigning more staff members to help coordinate decisions can also be beneficial.
Tip #3 Mitigate Time. While you are updating Crisis Team members about developments, you will certainly miss all the emails coming in—and the texts and phone calls. You’ll have to choose: Do you get the latest updates, or do you continue to field questions? While you may need the updates, you will have to find a way to relay the information you have right now.
Moreover, in a panic situation you will find yourself repeating information because people may not believe it, or they are processing it. And everyone has questions. To help speed things up, establish an emergency group email contact list in advance, so you can hit one button. Or set up a conference line so everyone instrumental can get updates at the same time.
Tip #4: Take an Inside-Out Approach to Communications. Prioritize accordingly by talking to your staff, customers and shareholders first. The media may be champing at the bit to get information, but prioritizing your communications is key— the media and social media should be one of the last groups you update…certainly not the first. It is preferable that your executives, staff and customers hear about a crisis from the company first, not the media/social media.
Tip #5: Keep Your Employees Away from the Media. In a serious situation, you may want to get your employees off-site or let them go home. But if you are rounding employees up in one location, you’ll want to ensure the place they go is not the same place the media would go.
Tip #6: Brevity and Truth are Key When Communicating in a Crisis. Maintain a Website where you post your communication updates and statements. And don’t forget to account for the time it takes to get requisite approval from legal and executives.
Tip #7: Think Big Picture. Consider who will be the link between the real-life crisis and how it will impact the business or project. Eventually when you get through the crisis, somebody has to think about how to put all the pieces back together.
Preparation and understanding everyone’s roles and responsibilities makes executing a crisis communications plan a lot easier. Hopefully your plan will give you a sense of confidence as you work through it during an actual crisis. When you take a moment and review what you can do better, it should be easier to manage with some planning and delegation. Then, when you put on the fit and finish, you can play better on game day.
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