On Wednesday 14th January, the Solent PR 3rd years held a Crisis Simulation day in attempt to see how they would deal with a real crisis, if they were the PR practitioners in charge of dealing with it. There were 4 PR teams, a team acting as students and another team acting as Journalists, as well as other key players such as someone acting as a Medical expert. The MA PR students were also happy to get involved with the day!
The scenario was entirely fictional and involved a student, Genevive, from a made up University fainting with the possibility of having Ebola, as she had recently volunteered in Guinea. Each PR team was in separate rooms for the day so they couldn’t see what PR strategies the other teams were coming up with to deal with the situation.
Myself and my course mate are 2nd years, and were asked to attend the Crisis Simulation day and act as students. Our role was to use social media platforms, created just for the purpose of the day, and tweet and post our questions and concerns to the PR teams. We asked about Genevive’s condition, how we could find out more information and the likelihood of us contracting Ebola, too..! I felt a bit bad after a while, as the PR teams were getting bombarded by our panicky (and fairly annoying!) tweets and had to deal with them whilst producing press releases, speaking to Journalists, releasing statements and deciding whether the fictional university should stay open or not.
My favourite aspect of the simulation was just how real, and how highly organised, it was (thanks go to Catherine Sweet for that!). Each team had every other teams number, so students were in regular contact with Journalists about the situation and, from that, the Journalists created news articles for a fictional newspaper. The statements released by the PR teams were also very realistic and sounded similar to what we would see from companies and organisations in real life – one team even released video updates of the situation throughout the day, including an interview with the fictional university’s ‘vice-chancellor’ (aka PR lecturer, Rob Dalton!).
Even though, as a 2nd year, we haven’t done much work on Crisis Management, my course mate and I now have a good idea of what we’ll be doing on our Crisis Simulation day next year – in particular, how stressful it will probably be(!)
The PR team that won the Crisis Simulation was made up of PR Students Paige Hiley, Kelly Dorbek, Stephanie Harris, Mathilde Trouillet and Sophie Santandrea.
Paige, from the winning team, said: “It was a great experience overall, no one can be prepared for a crisis but with the simulation we have now been able to look at what worked well and what didn’t. It has prepared us for future scenarios where the crisis is real and it’s always great to add this experience to your CV. Handling the media was difficult to say the least but I think this was the most exciting part as you didn’t know what was going to happen next. I’m very proud of the team I was a part of, we managed to put all of our strengths together and win the simulation.”
Thank you to everyone who made the Crisis Simulation day happen, in particular Catherine Sweet who organised it all. A further thank you goes to lecturer Rob Dalton, Friederike Rummenhohl for taking the featured photographs and everyone else who gave their time to be a part of the event.