Nonprofit organizations have financial audits conducted annually, but when was the last time your organization had a crisis drill, or simulation, to assess its ability to effectively manage a crisis? The answer is likely never, and that’s not advisable.
Many organizations believe that you can’t plan for a crisis, and in some ways that’s true. You can’t control the what, when or how of most situations, but you can proactively identify those areas with the greatest risk for exposure, and plan proactively.
We frequently conduct crisis drills and crisis simulations for organizations, where we create real-life scenarios tailored specifically for the company. During this process, our Mistress of Mayhem, (a/k/a Vanessa Wakeman,) and members of the team, take you through a series of scenarios to see how key players in your organization manage the important issues that determine the outcome and impact of the crisis. For example, when do you issue a statement? How often do you update your supporters? Who is appointed spokesperson? All of these questions, and more, will need to be answered during a crisis.
During a crisis drill, we are observing the planned course of action to make sure that everyone is doing what was planned. Similar to a fire drill, roles and assignments are designated and everyone knows in advance what they are to do in the event of a crisis. In a simulation, participants are not aware of what activities will take place, and are forced to think on their feet to contain the situation.
Both processes reveal any areas in your internal processes that are vulnerable to exposure, as well as the experience and comfort level of your team in handling emergency situations. Some of the crisis simulations are full-on productions, with actors, and others are simple, yet equally effective workshops, designed to give teams the simulated experience of a crisis.
Some of the most common areas of weakness that we identify are:
- Ineffective messaging.
- Lack of communication, internally and externally.
- Inability to plan beyond the issue in the moment.
- Lack of ownership of tasks related to mitigating risk.
- Lack of awareness of areas of exposure.
In a recent simulation, a client wanted to gain an understanding of how their team would react if there were a data breach, and confidential information was accessed. Over the course of three hours, we worked with the leadership and communications team to take them through a series of challenging, but valuable, exercises, allowing them to respond as they would in a real crisis. The participants had no idea what would happen, minute to minute.
A few revelations that emerged from that simulation, that needed to be addressed:
- They had no existing process to manage an emergency situation.
- Board and staff made different assumptions about next steps, and as a result, two very different messages were shared with key audiences.
- Only one person had passwords to social media accounts, making it challenging to respond if that person was unavailable.
- Funders were forgotten during the process.
The simulation provided the organization with specific details about how to address those areas of weakness, including specific guidance for the future.
After the simulation, the organization was able to use the insights gleaned to be thoughtful about their risk management, and their approach to it. This allowed them to create a plan that will help them effectively weather a storm, if one should present.
The small investment of time and money involved in a crisis drill or simulation has allowed a number of organizations to rethink crisis planning, and gain a greater understanding of how to best prepare and leverage their resources.
The Mistress of Mayhem and her team can:
- Develop a crisis scenario, based on information gathered from your organization.
- Present and facilitate the simulation, and the working parameters.
- Provide real-time challenges and tasks, based on responses during the exercises.
- Provide feedback and recommendations post event, for internal planning.
- Provide strategy and counsel, for development of a PR crisis plan.
What would the Mistress of Mayhem reveal about your organization to help you manage a crisis?