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Crisis Communication Mastery: NBRT takes the lead with proactive strategies

Effective communication is crucial for successfully implementing biosecurity practices within an Emergency Animal Disease (EAD) response. A subject that our National Biosecurity Response Team (NBRT) cohort is well-versed in and actively applied during a recent two-day workshop in Sydney. Over 40 mentors and members from all jurisdictions, alongside non-member participants from the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (QLD DAF) and NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI), came together to discuss and examine operational and reputational risks associated with communication in the context of EAD response.

Facilitated by NBRT’s very own Public Information (PI) Mentor, Kirsten Philips and Principle Consultant at Biosecurity Advisory Service, Ron Glanville, the workshop provided valuable and relevant guidance, drawing from their rich experiences and perspectives from the field. A significant highlight and practical learning experience guided by Kirsten during the workshop stemmed from the reverse engineering exercise focused on the importance of messaging.

Reverse engineering, a versatile approach, is recognised as a key tool that can facilitate the acquisition of new skills, comprehension of information, and spark innovative ideas. Participants were tasked with delivering severely inaccurate messaging to the broader group in response to hypothetical emergency scenarios. The objective was to reveal the extent of risks and pitfalls associated with public messaging. This exercise aided members in comprehending the nuances of effective communication and its critical role in shaping the success or failure of a response effort, while also injecting a sense of humour into the room.

A consistent theme and primary emphasis in every NBRT workshop is upskilling initiatives. The goal is to ensure our members stay proactive and well-equipped with the necessary knowledge and confidence to play a significant role in safeguarding Australia. This particular workshop adhered to the same principle, offering participants the chance to refine their skills in crucial areas vital for emergency response. This included live radio interviews, live television interviews, and print-based media interviews, as well as gaining insights into the issues and risks linked to media statements or press conferences.

The workshop gained added value through sessions led by guest speakers Chris Hollingdrake and Mark Hodder from QLD DAF. They provided valuable insights into communication, engagement, and media, enhancing the collective knowledge and understanding of the roles within the Public Information function. Additionally, guest speaker Kirsty Richards, a veterinarian at SunPork Farms, contributed significantly to the workshop by sharing her experience as an Industry Liaison Officer working in a response from multiple perspectives. Her presentation added great value to the diverse insights shared during the event highlighting how effective communication impacts industry representatives acting as the conduit between industry and a response.

The workshop not only provided an excellent platform for members to connect and network but also delivered authentic advice, valuable perspectives, and opportunities to learn the essentials of applying successful communication strategies in the event of an emergency response. Through trust-building exercises and transparent conversations, the workshop saw not only a better understanding of the role of the Public Information function but also an enhanced trust within the capabilities of PI members. With the NBRT Program hosting workshops throughout the year, Australia can have confidence in the capabilities of our NBRT members.

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