Dealing with disasters on the front foot

With the frequency ofglobal disasters, now more than ever organisations need to have a good crisis communications strategy in place.

AirAsia CEOTony Fernandeswas at the forefront of an open and comprehensive communications response after the crash of one of the airline’s carriers in December 2014. His style contrasts starkly with the way information was released by Malaysia Airlines’ to the family and friends of those lost on board flightMH370.

According to Griffith University crisis communications lecturer Dr Hamish McLean, Fernandes “understands that social media can save reputations in a crisis”.

“The first 48 hours of a crisis are the most critical for an organisation as it aims to reassure people that can it deal with, and resolve, the crisis. AirAsia did this well, but not Malaysian Airlines,’’ he says

Dr McLean is the convenor of the Graduate Certificate in Crisis Communicationfor managers and professional communicators.

“Crises and reputational issues can impact any organisation. How organisational leaders respond is critical in recovery of both operational and reputational assets,’’ he said.

“This course helps managers and communicators better understand and apply best practice principles in organisational survival and managing relationships with key stakeholders.”

For managers experienced in crisis issues, the certificate will provide acknowledgement and recognition of that expertise. For people without experience in crises, the course weaves best practice and theory to provide a solid foundation in building their careers and expertise.

The programcovers key aspects of crisis and disaster communication, ranging from how and when to take responsibility to communicating your organisation’s message during a disaster.

Dr McLean said disasters affected the whole community.

“That means organisations not normally involved in disaster response can be in the frontline. Having knowledge of disaster and crisis communication principles will help those organisations deal with calamity and speed the recovery process.

“This course is suited to people in disaster management, and also community organisations, such as NGO’s, who may be providing support during a disaster.”

The Graduate Certificate in Crisis Communication is offered six months full-time at Nathan or Gold Coast campuses or online.