What do Government communicators want? What do the media want? What is the collective responsibility of communicators and the media when an incident or disaster strikes? What are their roles in disaster management?
These thought-provoking questions were answered in an intense two-day training workshop on ‘Media Relations in Crisis for Disaster Preparedness’ for some 25 Government communicators, including statutory bodies and media professionals.
The workshop was facilitated by Professor Lee Miles and Associate Lecturer Jamie Martin of the Bournemouth University, Disaster Management Centre. The training sessions were held on April 16 and 17.
Director of Communications, Mrs. Arliene T. Penn said the training was important as it included two learning components: strategic media relations and public relations, and practical assignments that allowed Government communicators and media to reverse roles.
Mrs. Penn said, “Sometimes, we don’t appreciate the common roles that communications and the media share. Too often the roles and responsibilities are seen as unequally yoked, but having worked on both sides of the fence, there are two common threads: both professions fall within the ambit of communications and they share the same client — the public.”
She explained that communicators and the media as information providers both play a critical role in disseminating information to the public before, during and after disasters.
The Director said, “People want to know where to go, what is happening, why it is happening and who is it happening to? I believe that an intimate knowledge of what is expected of each other is essential to ensuring a well-informed public.”
The objective of the sessions was to ensure participants understood that they play a very important role in society where they provide the public with information that enables people to act in ways that will reduce any possible loss of life and damage to property and the environment.
Mrs. Penn said participants were excited about the new knowledge and that she was pleased that they have walked away with a better appreciation and understanding of what is expected of each other in times of emergencies, accidents or disasters.
She said, “I am mindful that a next active hurricane season is expected, and this training offered the participants an opportunity to Be Ready and Stay Ready!”
Mrs. Penn added, “I thank DDM for ensuring that this training came to fruition and we look forward to more partnerships in the future. It is good when you can reach out to DDM to provide assistance in these essential areas necessary for disaster preparedness.”
Director of the Department for Disaster Management (DDM), Ms. Sharleen DaBreo said her department was extremely pleased to be able to work with the University of Bournemouth and the Government communications team to offer this training for communications officers and media professionals.
Ms. DaBreo said, “We worked closely with the Director of Communications early last year to set the agenda for the workshop, but we were unable to implement it as a result of the devastating impacts to the islands.”
She added, “We are aware of the important role that that media plays in all phases of disaster management – preparedness, response, mitigation, and recovery by facilitating pathways for information dissemination and channels to allow for feedback from the public. It is, therefore, important that we work collectively to ensure that there is a strong partnership between communicators and media professionals especially during times of crisis and disasters.”
Participants were trained in topics including understanding the Strategic Communications Environment; Framing and Blame Gaming; Walk Before You Run- Major Incident Management; with communications and media working together to enable risk reduction. They participated in role plays, live interviews, and preparing and executing a press conference.
Participants were presented with certificates for their attendance and successful completion of the two-day training seminar.
Photo Caption: Facilitators from the Bournemouth University and participants pictured after completion of a two-day training programme on Disaster Management Media Training