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EVENT WRAP | When Disaster Strikes

Wednesday 11, Jul 2018

Picture this: You are the Communications Manager at Rapid Rail, Melbourne’s leading public transport provider.

Thousands of angry passengers are stranded at stations across Melbourne, venting their frustrations on social media. How do you respond to the delays?

Predictable enough? OK. Then, how do you respond when news comes in that the cause of the delay is actually the result of a hacking - a cyber terrorism attack from a disgruntled former employee? Then, what do you do when management are accused of systematic bullying – that their actions have indirectly caused this? The issue deepens. The hacker’s forced malfunctions are injuring members of the public. Elderly members of the public.

30 Victorian practitioners got together to formulate a response to this issue, among others, last month with crisis simulation company.

Teams worked to formulate a response on a live website, manage social media accounts, send internal communications to staff and to respond to journalist enquiries – all while the situation developed.

In addition to working on the tools, participants heard from a fantastic array of speakers who have lived real-life events on par and worse than the hypotheticals presented.

Presenters Craig Lapsley and Mark Forbes with Alex Messina MPRIA, PRIA Victorian President (centre)

Highlights included presentations from Victoria’s Emergency Management Commissioner, Craig Lapsley, who shared top-line insights as to how communication around the Bourke Street attack was handled, and Metro Trains Head of Media Marcus Williams - no stranger to dealing with unavoidable delays on rail networks.

A strong theme of preparation came through from all speakers on the day. Issues and crises management will be a part of every communications professional’s work at some point or another – it’s a matter of anticipating what might go wrong to prepare for it and having a clear process to deal with issues when they inevitably do.

Caitlin Harris MPRIA, Victoria State Committee Member