Surprise Attack: Executing a Crisis Simulation to Plan for the Unknown

On Aug. 1, 2008, Peppercom employees learned that four senior managers were missing following a quarterly summit in Singapore, leaving only one member of the management team-- co-founder and managing partner, Steve Cody--in New York to direct employees. As news broke that the team's plane crashed somewhere in the Pacific, the rest of the Peppercom staff had to manage the unfolding crisis.

If this scenario sounds too far-fetched to be true, that's because it is; lucky for everyone involved, the tragedy was nothing more than a simulation, which the agency's executives executed as part of its continuous learning program.

"We work with [clients'] PR people to devise realistic scenarios of crises that might occur. We escalate the crisis and ask the executives to work together to solve it. Then we score how the team did, and have them evaluate themselves," Cody says in reference to the crisis simulations Peppercom plans for clients. "But, in this particular instance, we had never walked the walk and gone through a full-blown crisis simulation."

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