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In the Eye of the Storm

Wed, 04/11/2018

The CNC Situation Room - A Tailored Approach to Crisis Training

By Alwin Binder, Director, Kekst CNC

Quadriga's 6th International Crisis Communication Conference (#ICCC18) took place in Berlin on April 5 and 6 2018. It focused on building trust in times of #cybercrime and political crises. Experienced communication and PR professionals from a wide variety of sectors and backgrounds exchanged perspectives and best practices during the two days, which were filled with panel discussions, keynote speeches and workshop sessions.

CNC held four Situation Room sessions on April 5. The interactive simulation tool put around 60 conference participants at the heart of a crisis. The Situation Room is designed to mimic a real-time crisis and the associated information overload. It is hosted on dedicated laptops and cellular phones that allow each participant to respond to emails, calls and social media, thus interacting with all relevant internal and external stakeholders. Every move the participants make – from one-on-one media contacts to distributing press releases – directly influences how “the public” perceives the developing crisis. Meanwhile, CNC’s experienced communications consultants manage the back-end of the simulation and follow-up with detailed feedback and recommendations afterwards.

In this case, the participants played the communications team of a fictitious UK specialist insurer. They had to deal with a cyber-breach which led to sensitive customer data having been published online. The roles played included the Head of Communications, Internal and External Communications, Public Affairs, Spokespeople and the Social Media team. It was but towards the end of the 60 minutes simulation that the participants received more detailed information on the source of the breach – in the meantime, they had to work together as a team to deal with a constantly evolving crisis and pressure from all sides, ranging from worried customers and inquisitive media outlets to the company’s CEO and regulators.

Despite only having met the same day, the participants handled the crisis very well during the different sessions. While the groups presented various interesting ways of tackling the situation, using an integrated communication approach, where the different roles cooperated closely and all spoke with one voice, proved to be the most successful way of handling the crisis. Clear leadership from the fictional Heads of Communications also helped the teams work in a targeted way. At the end of the sessions, participant feedback was very positive – a fourth session towards the end of the day had to be added unexpectedly because of the significant interest the morning workshops had generated! All in all, both the conference participants and the CNC consultants had a thoroughly enjoyable day and were able to take away precious learnings from an exciting conference and from successful Situation Room sessions.

How does the CNC Situation Room work?

To complement work on table-tops and other bespoke simulations, Kekst CNC has developed an immersive crisis preparedness training tool, the Situation Room. This uses proprietary hardware and software to develop bespoke training workshops and simulation exercises that can mimic specific elements of a crisis all the way up to a fully developed real-time scenario, enabling us to create programs that best meet a client's needs and experience.

This article was first published on LinkedIn.

Kekst CNC is a global strategic communications consultancy that was formed in late 2018 when two market-leading firms, Kekst, founded in 1970, and CNC-Communications & Network Consulting, founded in 2002, combined their teams and capabilities. The combination built on years of collaboration on many cross-border clients and projects and their shared culture of how they work with clients. The firm currently has 250 professionals in 12 offices across the U.S., Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Kekst CNC is part of the worldwide Publicis Groupe [Euronext Paris FR0000130577, CAC 40]. For further information, visit or @KekstCNC.

Alwin Binder
Alwin Binder is Director in Kekst CNC's Munich office. He focuses primarily on corporate, financial and crisis communications and advises clients in the energy, telecommunications, real estate and private equity sector. Alwin is specialised in digital communications and an expert in crisis simulation trainings.
Twitter: @AlwinBinder
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