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Dress Rehearsal Needed: Training for a Crisis

I am a big believer in plan, plan and plan some more. Regardless of the situation you should have back up plans. Some people inherently are able to think quickly on their feet. Others, however, struggle to know what to do next when plan A goes awry.
In my tradeshow management days, I realized quickly that not all employees have the problem solving skills they need to be strong team members. This didn’t mean they weren’t good at their job, they just weren’t trained to respond quickly to problems. To combat this issue, I developed a training program to help flex their critical thinking muscles. (Download your free copy of This is a Test to help you proactively manage trade show calamity)

Training is also critical to crisis communication. In crisis communication, anticipating a crisis is a large part of the crisis team’s responsibility. In order to ensure that the organization is protected, and the stakeholders and community are communicated with effectively, you have to create contingencies and form a game plan using scenarios. Companies typically have a generic crisis communication strategy in place. This is a great start, but I believe that you need specific crisis communication scenario plans that enable you and the crisis team to quickly mount an offense without hashing out how the generic plan doesn’t fit the current circumstances.

Image Courtesy of Millennium Broadway

Once you have some specific crisis communication scenario plans in place, then you can create training and simulations around the scenario to help the crisis team learn how to respond and think quickly on their feet. There is a reason theater performances always have a dress rehearsal. It is because of Murphy’s Law, “What can go wrong will go wrong.”

Below are some strategies for developing a scenario based training program for your crisis communication team. Creating training simulations will allow everyone to be on the same page, employ similar tactics and allow the team to manage the crisis instead of the crisis managing them.

How to Develop Crisis Communication Training Simulations

  • Develop detailed scenarios in advance for your team to work with. Create scenarios that have the potential to occur so that actual best practices and learning can be achieved.
  • In order to simulate a true crisis environment you need to create frenzy. You can do this by:
    • Provide information in pieces
    • Use multiple channels: Facebook, Twitter, phone, email, in person…. IMPORTANT: Do not use company accounts for the simulation or your actual company’s name.
    • Set time limits for each scenario
  •  Set aside a ½ day or a day for your team to participate in the exercise. Making the exercise a priority will help to create active and engaged participation
  •  Debrief: In order to get the most out of the training exercise you need to debrief with your team, discuss what went well, what they would have done differently and then record best practices. Later incorporate these best practices into your crisis communication plans.

Read More in the Crisis Communication Series:

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One comment on “Dress Rehearsal Needed: Training for a Crisis

  1. Saleh
    November 11, 2011

    This blog post says it aptly.. Planning is the key to effective crisis communication. With a good plan at hand, training the crisis management team along the objectives and strategies of the plan ensures that all the members involved are prepared adequately to handle any possible crisis.

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