Crisis Exercises Need to Include Media Relations
Why communications must be part of your exercise
Media pressure changes the experience of any incident and if it’s not realistically included in an exercise then you’re not practicing for a real incident. Journalist calls can clog phone lines. Key decision makers can be kept busy with media enquiries. Charterers and other stakeholders will start demanding responses.
An external media responder will help to keep the pressure off your teams, but it cannot eliminate all issues and, more importantly, it is essential that you have practiced working seamlessly with the external team.
Communications is for the whole team
Communications functions are usually delegated to a select group and this is as it should be (too many voices are a recipe for disaster), but the comms team needs the support of the whole team and the experience of the coverage certainly won’t be isolated to a few.
Seafarers on a stricken ship may watch live television coverage of their vessel on their phones, salvors and QI’s may look to social media for the latest pictures of the incident, back office staff may follow breaking coverage from their desktops.
We wouldn’t think of running a major drill without using email or telephone; we must add social media to this list – it won’t be realistic unless there are tweets on your phone and journalists on the line.
Prepare to interact
Exercises should feel like real crises and real crises should feel like exercises. We got tired of exercise participants telling us, ‘well if it had been real I would have…’ But would they?
Drills and exercises are a routine part of working in the maritime sector (we participate in 60+ a year for our clients), but how often do they actually feel real?
For a major national exercise with over 40 organisations and 500 people involved, our media simulation helped to bring the exercise together. From the shipowner, to the UK Government to the RSPCA responding to oiled wildlife, everyone could follow what was happing on their screens and be part of something much bigger than their area of responsibility.
Working with a team of national, international and specialist shipping journalists, Navigate Response provided a highly realistic simulation, using the Triton media simulator, which became the most talked about part of the exercise. Over two days of exercising, there were thousands of social media posts, dozens of television news reports and high-profile interviews with key officials – all viewable in real time by everyone participating in the exercise, just as it would be in a real incident.
More importantly, the realism of the simulation helped to identify some important areas for improvement. Equally, the realism of the platform gave organizations an opportunity to showcase the strengths of their plans and to learn from the strengths of others.
Dustin Eno is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Crisis Response Manager for Navigate Response. Eno manages the media response for numerous shipping incidents, coordinates the operations of Navigate's global network and is one of the company’s lead media trainers. Before joining Navigate, he ran crisis communications for the largest wildfire management center in British Columbia.
This article originally appeared in Navigate Response’s newsletter, and it may be found in its original form here.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.