It lurks behind small faux pas, critical decisions or rash statements: the communication crisis. The horror of every communications and social media team. Once the crisis has taken hold over your company, the alarm level is set to “red”. An avalanche of outrage rolls over your channels and is almost impossible to stop. Social media in particular has made this circumstance much worse. The result: a possible loss of reputation and potential financial damage. This makes it all the more important to minimize the risk factors of a communication crisis and to create skills for dealing with it adequately – for example, with a crisis communication exercise. After all, you may not be able to stop communication crises like firestorms completely, but with inappropriate communication, crises are usually fired up. If, on the other hand, you react quickly and adequately in an emergency, the crisis can be mitigated and successfully managed.
As in crisis management as a whole, the same applies to crisis communication: fire protection is the best fire brigade. In concrete terms, this means that you should also prepare for a crisis in terms of communication before it occurs. Because once the crisis has arrived, you need to communicate quickly and competently – and under enormous pressure. A crisis communication guide, which describes how to deal with crises in a communicative way, can help here. This policy should be directly linked to your crisis manual and sensibly extend it by the component “communication”. A special focus on the area of “social media” is also worthwhile, because crises today always have a digital dimension. But: What good is the best manual if your crisis fire department knows that you should use a fire extinguisher, but doesn’t know how to do it in practice? This is where the crisis communication drill comes into play.
With a crisis communication exercise you can improve the practical skills of your employees in dealing with crises. Similar to a regular crisis exercise, your employees will be trained for the case of an emergency with the help of a crisis simulation, for example. For this purpose, realistic crisis scenarios are designed and played through. In the exercises, requests by e-mail or telephone from relevant stakeholders are simulated and the handling of them is trained.
But calls and e-mails are not enough today: In a crisis, social media must also be taken into account in communication. In acute situations, new inquiries can arrive here every minute. In addition, social media communication follows its very own rules. That’s why it makes sense to focus on social media crisis communication in a training course of this kind and to educate your employees in dealing with phenomena like firestorms. For this purpose the scenarios can be presented in a simulation tool like the SOCIAL MEDIA SIMULATOR from PREVENCY® and integrated into the crisis communication training. Your team will then be put into the exceptional situation of a social media crisis and must master the handling of this crisis in real time. Here it shows up fast, which processes your employees have already internalized and where still improvement need is.
A social media simulation also allows you and your employees to take on the role of the angry online mob themselves. This will help you better understand why there are so many negative comments in certain situations and what your social media community needs in a crisis. This in turn can lead to learning how to deal with communication crises. In particular, the emotional component and dynamics of a digital crisis are made clear once again by a role reversal: In addition to a need for information, the community has, above all, fears and concerns that need to be taken into account in social media crisis communication. You also get a feeling for how quickly you can get involved in a crisis. This helps to better understand how digital crises work.
In addition to classic crisis triggers, there are many other communication and informational strategic risks for your company today. Social media fraud or the dissemination of fake news, for example, can pose enormous reputational risks. Especially in the case of digital disinformation, professional handling is essential to effectively counteract the crisis. This can also be trained with a crisis communication exercise. For example, your communication team is confronted with a fake news story about your own company and has to react under real conditions – but in the safely protected space of a simulation. Usually such a scenario can also be combined with a firestorm simulation or a large-scale crisis exercise.
Finally, a crisis communication exercise is an effective and playful method to train the communicative handling of reputation risks and potential crisis scenarios. It can highlight existing know-how and skills as well as current weaknesses and provide impulses for optimizing crisis management. In addition, it offers valuable insights and experience by assuming different roles and practical exercises in ad hoc crisis communication. Ultimately, the old saying “practice makes perfect” applies here: Those who prepare for potential crises in advance with a crisis communication training course not only know what to do in an emergency, but can act routinely and confidently – a core competence for successful crisis management.
You want to prepare your employees for an emergency with a crisis communication exercise? We would be happy to help you!
Better safe than sorry.