Tourism

Are YOU crisis ready? Key takeaways from CATO’s Crisis Management Conference

Christian Fleetwood

To efficiently and effectively combat a crisis, its management requires mindfulness and preparation.

This was the key message from the Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO) Crisis Management Conference in Sydney on Thursday.

Stepping to the podium first was CATO managing director Brett Jardine, who opened the day with a sharp, pointed message: “Prior preparation prevents poor performance.”

For big multi-nationals, small-staffed start-ups and everything in between, the message remains the same: prepare for the worst, prepare your paperwork, and surround yourself with a team of kick-ass crisis managers.

It was a quote that set the tone for the conference. With experts from all corners of the industry gathered, each of CATO’s speakers—from risk management and contingency planning, to public relations and insurance—all answered ‘Are you crisis ready?’ in very different ways.

“A plan is nothing unless it works under pressure,” said Simon Petie, regional manager for Queensland and New South Wales at RiskLogic.

Petie spoke of the challenges that crisis management teams faced, and the unique demands of intercontinental travel. Among them, agents in crisis are forced to bridge the gaps of “language, culture, distance, time-zone”.

“[The crisis] isn’t right in front of us”, Petie said. “You can’t see, feel or touch it.” To RiskLogic, this highlighted both the importance of geographically dispersed teams and cool-headed management.

Petie also said he was “starting not to use the word crisis”,  and that he encouraged clients to be wiser with their language.

“A company and CEO will not declare a crisis,but they will strategically respond to an event.”

“Crisis management isn’t pressing a big red button,” he said. “You need to have a plan that allows you to flow through a process.”

“If you’re having hours and days of meetings, you’re doing it wrong.”

Following on from Petie, the communications panel consisting of SPG’s Cara Mygind, Barking Owl Communications’ Jill Collins and Sefiani’s Robyn Sefiani also spoke of the importance of ethics in crisis.

“You need to show empathy,” Collins said. “You need to show you care.”

Mygind also believed that communications planning should be involved in crisis management from the beginning of an event.

“Your communications team needs to sit right alongside your executive and your CEO team,” she said. “Too often, communications and PR teams are left at the very end of the communications process.

“You need to start by mitigating your risks.”

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