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#Dreamworld – disaster or incident or accident – choose the right words for #crisis management

If you need to handle a crisis you need to be aware of the power and nuance of the  words y0u use.

As Deputy News Director at a major Australian TV network, I’ve been carefully monitoring reports and reaction to a ‘big story’ about a theme park (Dreamworld) ride accident that killed 4 people.


The media will use dramatic words (in this case appropriate in my opinion):  Dreamworld disaster, tragedy etc.

On the other side, PR companies and  crisis management experts will use ‘dry’, unemotive language such as ‘incident’ or ‘event’ or ‘occurrence’.

The police will use unemotive and factual language also.

Before my news job, I worked ‘on the other side’ in corporate comms and crisis management and one assignment involved working with a senior spokesman for an electricity company who had to face the media and live presentations about a ‘ workplace incident’ that ‘claimed the life of an employee’.

To prepare for these appearances,  we worked to come up with the right words. From my experience with Australian audiences, Australians hate words like  incident – so we called it what it was – an accident. The word accident also suggests that it was a rare and out of the ordinary occurrence.

Also, we didn’t want to refer to the person who was killed as an employee or worker – but a colleague.


So if you need to face the media or a live audience:

  1. take time to find words that don’t sound too cold and aloof and corporate
  2. practise delivering your message or answering questions out loud before you need to face the media or a live audience.

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This entry was posted on October 27, 2016 by in Uncategorized.
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