Good crisis communications response requires a range of different skills. For example, we help our clients with training around team leadership, stakeholder engagement, and being an effective spokesperson along with digital communications. Therefore, when one of our clients wanted to focus on how their communicators should manage a ‘dark site’ during a crisis, we designed a scenario to help them. In short, a ‘dark site’ is a dedicated website that can be launched specifically to provide information on a crisis. The system our client uses is called Jetty. Many organizations have adopted Jetty. As well as posting information, graphics and videos about the incident response, Jetty also allows stakeholders (media, neighbors, government officials) to raise their concerns and issues directly with the organization in different ways.
Employed effectively, the system can help a team manage potentially hundreds, if not thousands, of inquiries they will receive during a very public emergency. This takes planning and practice. First the client wanted to reinforce the individual training their team had received on the system. They wanted their people to practice posting updates, logging and replying to inquiries. We wrote scores of realistic inquiries and loaded them onto the system. And when the response team replied to them, our virtual team initiated reactions to the messaging, replicating what happens in a real event.
Using our team’s response experience, another key drill objective we designed was to demonstrate how to use a 'dark site' strategically. That means setting up management processes to ensure the communications team works effectively to identify and prioritize important stakeholders, address common issues and most importantly deploy their resources efficiently. The final part of the training was a facilitated discussion to help the team identify the challenges and lessons learned from the drill.