Crisis management and communication are crucial to any organisation as they guarantee business continuity, help to build trust in the workplace and to protect an organisation’s reputation. On 29-30 November, CLAW 2022, the GÉANT crisis management workshop designed for national research and education networks (NRENs), took place in Poznan, Poland.
Around 70 representatives from various European NRENs and their affiliated institutions gathered at the hi-tech premises of the Poznan Supercomputing and Networking Center (PSNC) for a dynamic and intense two-day event.
CLAW 2022 kicked off with a keynote by Dmitry Kohmanyuk of Hostmaster, the registry operator of the Ukrainian top-level domain .ua, who shared with the audience his experience of crisis management in times of war and stressed how crucial it is to put people first, always, regardless of the type of crisis.
On day one participants brushed up their ‘in the field’ crisis management and communication skills in the workshops ‘How to deal with the media’ , ‘How to make a good crisis analysis’ and ‘Leadership in Crisis’.
The media training was given by a very experienced journalist and specialist in corporate and crisis communication. It started with a theoretical part on how organisations can protect their reputation in crisis situations and participants were introduced to different techniques on how to formulate appropriate answers to challenging and delicate questions. After the theory session, it was time for practice. Participants were invited to give a crisis interview in front of the camera in a simulated press conference and subsequently received feedback from the trainer and their fellow spokespeople.
Prepare, test, customise
On day 2 it was time for the real deal. During a two and a half hour simulation exercise, participants were given the task to deal with a perfectly organised cyber crisis. They were divided into several groups that formed Guilren’s (a fictional research network) crisis team, each team consisted of technical experts, communication specialists, a crisis coordinator, a CEO and an external observer.
What started as a vague incident with customers reporting problems about their file sharing and mailboxes, it soon turned out to be a ransomware attack causing immense impact. Both the imaginary organisation’s reputation and the relationship with its various stakeholders came under pressure. Just as in a real crisis, participants were overloaded with information, questions, concerns and had to work efficiently and in a focussed manner to deal with the crisis.
Davina Luyten, Communications Specialist from Belnet, Belgium commented: “What did we learn from the exercise? First and foremost: communication is crucial. Not only with the outside world, but especially internally. Immediately, everyone within the crisis team focused on their own tasks and responsibilities such as analysing technical information, patching vulnerabilities, formulating a statement for the press, but unfortunately we also regularly forgot to communicate and consult with each other”.
The simulation exercise ended with a press conference where the teams’ spokespersons gave their official statement and answered critical questions from the press.
Davina closed: “A coordinated and efficient internal flow of information is indeed necessary to survive a crisis unharmed. Preparation is half the battle. Make time to think about the different roles and responsibilities within your organisation, test and adjust procedures where necessary, think about crisis communication in advance: just to name a few of the necessary elements to prepare for a crisis”.
Learning from each other
Participants found of particular interest also the informal discussions on how different NRENs approach crisis management and communication.
But the CLAW experience doesn’t end here. CLAW 2022 participants returned home with concrete action points and the commitment to continue exchanging experiences within the European NREN community. So watch this space!
To find out more about previous CLAW events, visit the GÉANT Security site.