When news broke about the horrific incident at Dreamworld last month in which four people died, it felt like the whole country had gone into shock. We had all been to the Queensland theme parks at some point in our lives and this accident made us feel sadness at the loss of life, but also the loss of innocence that comes when we are faced with something like this.
However, that sadness subsided to anger once details about Dreamworld management’s handling of the crisis were revealed. It was obvious they had not planned for such an event and were, therefore, unprepared for how to handle the crisis. Details of long-standing safety issues, insensitive responses from Dreamworld management and police investigations have plagued the business, souring the goodwill the theme park previously enjoyed.
So how could CEO Deborah Thomas and her staff have handled the situation better?
Here are some tips:
1. Plan for the worst.
It may sound counter-productive to dwell on disaster, but if your organisation has a plan for how to deal with the most dire crisis you can imagine then you know everyone will know what to do.
Many years ago I played the role of a TV journalist in a crisis scenario at a Hunter Valley mine. The mine’s management wanted to see how their staff would respond when faced with the media poking around a fresh incident. They were surprised at how much information I was able to discover, even though the site was supposed to be closed. This showed the mine management they had to invest in some serious media training, which would help staff cope better should an actual event happen.
2. Have one point of contact and an agreed communication/approval procedure.
When preparing for a crisis, it is essential to have someone who will act as the company spokesperson. This lessens the confusion when it comes to who the media should speak with, but also shows staff within the organisation what the process is when it comes to what to say and when.
3. Communicate quickly and often.
It is very easy for things to get out of hand when no information is forthcoming in a crisis. Instead of allowing rumour to develop, it is important to acknowledge what has happened and give all the detail you can as soon as possible. Then keep lines of communication open across traditional and social media as new information comes to light. Don’t forget to keep staff in the loop too.
While you cannot know exactly how you will respond when faced with a crisis situation, it pays to be prepared so at least you know what you should be doing.