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Crisis communication course with international participation

Crises and disasters require immediate action so they can be overcome as quickly as possible. This also applies to communication, in order to provide transparency and inform the people affected and the public in general. In the Partnership for Peace communication course, fifteen civilian and military participants from eleven countries practised their communication skills in various crisis scenarios. Once a year, the Management, Information and Communication Training Command (MICA) organises and conducts this course, which is particularly popular because it focuses strongly on practical aspects.

07.11.2018 | Defence Communication / AFC

Participants experience first-hand what it feels like to be put under pressure by journalists during a media conference.
Participants experience first-hand what it feels like to be put under pressure by journalists during a media conference.

A short introduction, then the participants take the plunge. The crisis communication course run by the MICA is not what participants are used to. "The instructors have challenged us right from the start and it was tough meeting their expectations", explains Second Lieutenant Aleksandra Morzycka, press officer from Poland. Specialist teacher and course organiser Lieutenant Colonel Michel Emmert sees a great benefit in the practical exercises: "We make the participants do the tasks they have to master right from the beginning, which is more effective than trying to teach with power point presentations."

Encouraging and challenging

In the course of the week, the participants are constantly faced with new challenges: a helicopter crash, an attack on an oil pipeline and a salmonella scandal. The instructors make sure that the participants are challenged and put under time pressure by keeping these practice scenarios coming, one after the other; however, they can offer support if it all becomes too much, since ultimately the focus lies on the learning effect. 

Answering critical questions

Organising a media conference is also part of the course programme. The participants must inform the media that a military vehicle with four occupants has exploded: why has the car exploded? What is the condition of the car's occupants? Why were there two civilian women in the vehicle? What was the relationship between the soldiers and the women? It is crucial that course participants decide quickly what to communicate and avoid making assumptions. Communication instructors give feedback after the training sessions and identify potential for improvement. One of the participants was Colonel Štefan Acsai, Commander of the NATO Forces Integration Unit, from Slovakia. Even though the course is geared towards people who mainly work with the media, he was able to draw lessons for himself: "It was a valuable experience. I came here to improve my personal skills but the international environment has also taught me much about group dynamics." The lesson he has learned is: think twice before you act.

Enhancing the Swiss Armed Forces' reputation

"Running this course is one of our statutory responsibilities. It is the Swiss military's calling card for other armed forces", says course organiser Emmert. The exchange with other nations also provides Switzerland with an opportunity to compare and to cast a critical eye on its training programme. The positive feedback enhances the Swiss Armed Forces' reputation and has a positive effect on international cooperation. At the end of the course, Acsai and Morzycka confirm that they would not hesitate to recommend the course to others.