A late night (or was it early morning) conversation after an Emergency Media and Public Affairs conference in 2018 led to an historic combined media and Public Information Managers (PIM) hui in March this year. PIM teams are responsible for the quality and quantity of communication during an emergency event.
Waikato and Bay of Plenty Group PIMs Drew Mehrtens and Sam Rossiter-Stead decided that it would be good to get some cross-Kaimai ranges communication happening between the two region's PIMs. The idea grew from there.
Radio New Zealand’s John Barr and the Radio Broadcasters Association’s Jana Rangooni joined the content preparation team, along with GNS Science’s Brad Scott and Otago Group PIM Michele Poole, and helped create an advanced workshop designed for both PIM and journalists.
The hui happened in March 2019 in Tauranga. More than 50 PIM were in attendance from a range of councils as well as local district health boards, Fire and Emergency New Zealand and local and national media.
Jana Rangooni expressed the motivation behind bringing journalists and PIM together. "The day with national and local radio people and the Waikato and BOP CDEM teams was invaluable to help us both understand how we both operate and can help each other in an emergency,” she says. “I think the outtakes for all are potentially lifesaving and that’s what we all care about."
A key theme across all presentations and workshops was the need to build relationships.
“Relationship-building with media isn’t speed-dating,’ says John Barr. “It’s an ongoing process that pays real dividends when you’re under stress and the dominoes keep falling. A sound established relationship and understanding of priorities and needs makes the emergency event easier to manage effectively.”
The need for relationships to be built with Iwi Maori was also highlighted in a workshop led by Waikato Group PIM team member and former national journalist Amomai Pihama. The workshop facilitators also featured former television broadcaster and now Waikato-Tainui Communications Manager, Jason Ake, and Radio New Zealand’s Shannon Haunui-Thompson. The outcome of this workshop will be provided to attendees later in the year as a PIM guide for Iwi Maori engagement during an emergency response.
Drew Mehrtens presented Please Shoot the Messenger, a short session of tips to improve quality of live streaming video in emergency events.
GNS Science’s Brad Scott gave an interactive session on regional risks and tools for PIM and journalists. The session began with fun controversy, pointing out that New Zealand is part of Australia, if you counted sharing the same tectonic plate. Attendees got to see how much New Zealand is constantly changing shape, giving a fascinating insight into the reasons for our volcanos and earthquakes, and how these problems are mitigated.
Special guest Otago Group PIM Michele Poole provided advanced training for those deployed as Incident Management Team Public Information Managers. The presentation provided attendees with what they needed to know about the differences between being in the PIM team and being the function manager.
Finally, with a handful of attendees having been deployed to Nelson to assist with the Pigeon Valley fire response, and media who covered the event, the day concluded with a rare debrief of how it worked from both sides of the fence.
“With the challenges of social media being hijacked by people who want to hurt our communities,” points out Drew Mehrtens, “it's even more important than ever for factual trustworthy media to be well-supported by our PIM teams,” he says. “This day brought us all closer together and I believe we will be able to take better care of our whanau and communities as a result.”
Key facts about radio’s role in an emergency
- 3.6 Million people listen to radio every week.
- Radio is still the most-relied-on media in an emergency.
- Over 60% of people used it as their primary source in an emergency.
- In Christchurch 77% said it was the most valuable medium.
- The major networks and newsrooms are live 24/7.
- Radio can still be there when the power and mobile networks are down.
- Radio is there for news and minute-by-minute updates and support for people dealing with emergencies.
Tools for PIM and journalists