A Melbourne-based crisis communications and reputation management expert has turned entrepreneur by launching a web-based crisis training tool that mirrors a realistic media-rich environment.
Gerry McCusker is the man behind The Drill, which offers clients the worst day of their professional life by immersing clients into a wholly realistic PR disaster.
The SaaS platform, now formally out of beta-testing, dramatises the way organisations prepare for crises in a manner that delivers training outcomes via realistic and interactive publishing.
It simulates a myriad of multi-channel pressures – from email and media phone calls to online news, radio and TV reports – plus influential social media channels that still ambush companies looking to avert or manage crises.
Speaking to B&T, McCusker said the idea came about around 18 months ago through his own observations working as a crisis management expert and feedback from clients.
“I’ve been doing issues and crisis management advice for a long time, and it became apparent to me that you can’t prepare for a modern PR disaster on paper,” he said.
“A couple of clients also came to me and said, ‘You’ve given us the steps, but how do we know when to do what you’re saying to do?’”
McCusker and his team of seven developed an open-source platform first just to see how it would all look, before putting it through beta testing with eight clients.
“The problem with developing this type of tool is that when you start to build it, it starts to tell you what it needs to do,” McCusker said.
“The challenge is knowing when to put the brakes on and stop adding more features to it, and accepting that what we’ve built is innovative and exactly what our clients are after.”
McCusker said the platform would be attractive to issues-rich and “tough to love” organisations – “the ones who are going to have problems regularly”.
“We like to call it not just a PR crisis simulator but a trans-media crisis simulator,” he said.
“It can actually be used as a campaign simulator as well, so clients can see how their campaigns will look when they go online, including social media.”
The Drill also offers a scalable fee structure for clients based on the type of complexity they want.
“Some clients only want to test out how they would respond to negative comments on social media channels, which we could create for them in half a day,” McCusker said.
“Other clients want to see how they’ll go when there’s radio and TV, so you’d be looking at five or six figures for that.
“We also offer a licence model, so we can actually run the simulators for clients, then we can deactivate the content and the clients can license it and use it anytime they want after.”
McCusker said there are three clients spanning the infrastructure, healthcare, energy and education sectors that are currently using The Drill.