How to Write a Crisis Communication Plan Part 5: Your Crisis Drill

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC 

Our crisis communication goal since the beginning of the year has been to focus on consistency and continuity, rather than short-term New Year’s resolutions. Today we look at effective ways to test your Crisis Communication Plan by holding a Crisis Communication Drill.

Many organizations have crisis drills or exercises, but they are heavily focused on emergency response, incident command, and natural disasters. While these are all good scenarios, many organizations fall short in their crisis drill because they:

  1. Fail to write news releases
  2. Fail to go through the news release approval process
  3. Fail to conduct news conferences
  4. Fail to test spokespeople
  5. Fail to test their crisis communications plan

Your Crisis Communications Drill is the 5th element of the Five Steps to Effective Crisis Communications system that we have been discussing since the beginning of the year.

A Crisis Communications Drill should test all teams for their ability to respond to the event.

How to Pick Your Crisis Drill Scenario

The scenario for the drill can come from any of the items you identified in Step 1 – Your Vulnerability Assessment. Your drill scenario does not need to be an emergency type issue. Remember, not every crisis is an emergency. Feel free to creatively select a smoldering crisis issue.

When Does the Drill Begin?

Generally you want to tell your team which day to block out for the drill. Some organizations pick a specific time, such as 9 – noon, followed by lunch, followed by up to two hours for the post-drill evaluation meeting. However, keep in mind that on the day of your real crisis, not everyone is at work, so a drill doesn’t have to have a full staff. Also, if you start a drill at rush hour when people are driving to work or taking the kids to school, you can effectively add stress and realism to your crisis drill.

Test the Crisis Communications Plan

The goal of your drill should be to:

  1. Test your crisis communications plan you wrote in Step 2
  2. Test the pre-written news releases that you wrote in Step 3
  3. Test the approval process of using those news releases
  4. Test the spokespeople that you media trained in Step 4
  5. Test your various teams to ensure they can all work together well

Realistic News Conferences

When it comes time for news conferences, make them realistic. The spokesperson should use the Pre-Written News Release as their script. Questions should be realistic and tough, without getting silly.

Post-Drill Evaluation

When the drill is over, evaluate all of the aspects of the drill and make improvements to your Crisis Communications Plan.

Ultimately, a Crisis Communications Drill lets you mess up in private so you don’t mess up in public.

Schedule a drill at least once a year, although many organizations do it once a quarter.

As we’ve mentioned all year, be consistent in doing this every year so that there is continuity and continuous improvement in your organization.

If you need to schedule a free strategy call or if you need ask about any of the Five Steps to Effective Crisis Communications, please use this link to schedule a free 15 minute strategy call with me.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

How to Use Social Media for Crisis Communications

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

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