Education Case Study

UK Universities – Crisis communication training

Developing and Testing Your Crisis Communications Plans

In partnership with Universities UK (UUK), the representative body for universities in the UK, EPiCC delivered a series of regional events, which were attended by multiple universities.

The client’s challenge

UUK works closely with universities all over the UK to understand their concerns and challenges. They were alerted to a requirement by senior university communications staff for support in the development of their emergency preparedness. Organisations were at different stages in their emergency plan development and it became clear that a two-stage, supportive course would achieve maximum benefit for the clients, following EPiCC’s principle of Plan, Prepare and Practice.

Services provided

A two-day masterclass on how to write, test and review a crisis communications plan was developed and delivered in three regional locations.

Day one included the key components of understanding crisis communication and developing a bespoke plan:

  • Key decisions and communication resources to categorise and manage major events or incidents, and how these should be managed appropriately
  • Incident response team – how to clearly outline the responsibilities and actions relating to communications and the operational response
  • How to engage and work alongside external stakeholders and partners; and Category 1 and Category 2 agencies
  • Effective use of the various communication channels to reach all audiences
  • Post-critical incident strategy – investigation and legal position, business continuity, managing reputational damage

In addition, breakout sessions and one-on-one coaching for delegates helped them develop an outline bespoke crisis plan, to meet the requirements of their own university.

Day two, held eight weeks later, gave time for the client to work on completing their outline plan with their colleagues, ready for the test and review exercise on day two of the course. Day two tested their plans against a realistic scenario, challenging the delegates to review how their plans worked in a ‘real-life’ scenario.  As part of the second day, EPiCC also delivered a media training element, with delegates participating in ‘as live’ media interviews undertaken by an experienced broadcast journalist.

Outcomes

The two-stage course helped the clients develop and test their crisis communication plans in a timely, yet realistic manner. Ensuring that the plans were developed with colleagues and calibrated in their own environment, rather than remotely or prepared by an outside organisation. This ensured that the plans reflected their own university’s particular needs, and maximum buy-in from colleagues was achieved.

Senior communication staff were supported both by the learning and real-life experiences provided by EPiCC, and also challenged by the scenario and having the opportunity to present their communications strategy in front of a ‘reporter’.  

The regional events facilitated discussion between neighbouring universities, sharing good practice and developing partnership working.