10 February, 2017
10 February, 2017

PRIA MasterClass: Communicating when Tragedy Strikes

From the Lindt Café Siege to a coroner’s inquest on wrongful death, from merciless fires to senseless gun violence and from healthcare errors to domestic homicide – tough times need special communication.

Brush up skills on how to; respond quickly, be empathetic, set priorities, support communities, handle grief, negotiate boards and respond to lawyers. Hundreds of communicators help devastated victims and communities every day – make sure your team is ready just in case.

  • Learn about the legal, insurance and psychological issues that come into play when working with people affected by the ultimate tragedy.
  • Explore case studies on how to respond positively, maintain empathy, convey concerns, and to be a first responder to crisis involving complex stakeholders.
  • Plan to look after your own wellbeing when handling the ultimate issue – this is crucial to being a great communicator in the toughest times.

The final interactive workshop session of the day will be led by the Hunter Institute of Mental Health, which works with PRIA and media organisations on guidelines for publishing and disclosing suicide and other issues. Many organisations have policies to handle these situations, and this session will help participants to check and update their approaches.

This unique master class will be led by people experienced in dealing with the most tragic situations. Discussion will be Chatham House Rule to encourage openness and sharing of sensitive information by senior leaders in our profession.

Who should attend?: Professional communicators currently working at the managerial, directorial or executive leadership level, whether in an in-house position (in government, corporate, health, education or not-for-profit sectors), consultancy, journalists, as well as executives and senior managers who need to know how to communicate, will benefit from this professional development day.


Highlights will include:

  • Understanding Deathly Tragedy
  • Command and Control
  • Hearts and Minds
  • The Technicians
  • The Communicators
  • Duty of Care and Self-Care
  • Hypotheticals and Scenario-Planning Exercise


After completing the MasterClass, participants will:

  • Know how to accurately characterise and articulate risk in a live and evolving scenario
  • Have an ‘in-practice’ understanding of command and control crisis management, and an ability to work with emergency services and critical incident response teams
  • Have an understanding and ability to incorporate duty of care communication into your strategies
  • Know how to implement a ‘putting people first’ critical response plan and how to engage internal and expert stakeholders in implementing this style of response
  • Know how to practice self-care – as well as an understanding of the impact of trauma and crisis
  • Know how to look after impacted communities – understanding trauma, grief, distress, and the need to be connected to factual information


Director of Public Affairs – NSW Police


Director, Media and Communications – St Vincent’s Health Australia, Sydney

Managing Director – Primary Communication


Deputy Director, Head of Forensic Services – Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine


Program Manager – Hunter Institute of Mental Health


General Manager – Grace Funerals and Blue Mountains Funerals
Council Member, NSW/ACT – Australian Funeral Directors Association


General Manager Communications & Media Relations – Insurance Council of Australia