Why the best way to prepare for a crisis is to fake one.
The environment created by a crisis is different to business as usual: it is fast-paced, complex and uncertain. Crisis simulations can be used as effective means of teaching or testing decision-making, strategic thinking and communication skills in a safe and secure environment.
Communicating in a crisis breaks the rules of everyday corporate communications. Media outlets will cover the story with or without your input. Stakeholders will add to the narrative through social media with views and opinions that don’t require evidence or verification. And the breadth of commentators will be more numerous than at any other time.
In this high-pressured, uncertain environment, executives having to speak to the media don’t always get it right first time. Unfortunately, organisational crises that threaten the reputation of your business, and in some cases its license to operate, are not a place to learn on the job. It’s often preferable for executives and communications teams to build up ‘muscle memory’ through realistic crisis scenarios that can help to strengthen team relationships, identify holes in your crisis response and encourage the effective use of response tools.
When we coach business executives in crisis communications, we strive for immersion and realism. Alcovia is the name of our fictitious nation, a fully-realised world with its own internal and international dynamics. It’s where our crisis communications training takes place – a safe, simulated environment that’s insulated from the outside world, but that mirrors it in all material respects.
By using a fictional country instead of a real one, we exert greater control over characters, events and settings and can fashion a crisis with a credible, complex and motivating story. A world like Alcovia allows us to explore any scenario in any context we can imagine, giving delegates a meaningful understanding of how to manage a crisis — should they ever face one in the real world.
Within our simulated world, we test crisis communications strategies at both a tactical and strategic level – and evaluate these outcomes to give feedback on their respective success. It’s a process that helps delegates conceptualise and develop a winning strategy for effective crisis management.