Tree Adventures death highlights important media training point

Posted March 7, 2013

The unfortunate death at Tree Adventures earlier this week brings up an important media training consideration. When the news broke and journalists were all searching for sources, they could not get to speak to anyone from the company. Understandably, the New Zealand-based director was devastated, and was probably busy with investigators. But from a media training perspective, it meant that journalists had to go hunting for other sources. This was when they found witnesses who said safety was slack and the company was understaffed. While we cannot say these witnesses would not have been found if someone from Tree Adventures had been available, the chances would have been lessened. This is why we tell our media training clients that in such situations, they need to be available and take control of the story. Not only would it have allowed the company to offer its sympathies to the victim's family on TV, but also clear up any misinformation. To its credit, a spokesperson did front up to media the following day. This was when he empathised with the victim's family and said there was enough staff working to cater for 300, when only 170 people had been through the park. If this was said a day earlier, it would have discredited claims that the park was understaffed. From a media training perspective, the spokesperson did a good job on both TV networks. But unfortunately, he was a day late to be totally effective. While it would have been tough for someone to front on the day of the accident, it highlights that every business, school or other oganisation needs to have at least one person with appropriate media training skills. They will need to be ready to enter the spotlight at a moment's notice.
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