A common factor in the unfolding public relations misfire of Ardent Leisure, owner of Dreamworld, is misjudged actions.
Ardent executives falsely believed that the issue was all about them, and that they needed to be seen to take action.
Organised action is an artificial construct. We mistrust artifice because it requires conscious planning. We like instant reactions, because they reveal the true heart of a person or organisation.
Our advice to Ardent, for this situation, would have been to go with the flow. If the CEO was out at Dreamworld 24/7, she would have been forced to give and make quick reactions and decisions – driven by what feels right, not by what is decided by a crisis committee. The crisis committee can decide some basic principles, and the CEO choose how to fulfil them when she’s on the scene.
Dreamworld should have closed until it seemed right to reopen. Holding a memorial before funerals, and in which people go on rides, is ludicrous. If opening is driven by money and customer obligations, then say so.
The CEO should have been visible at Dreamworld 24/7 – with staff, police, officials and constantly available to media anytime. That’s caring about the incident. That’s providing camaraderie and unity for staff.
The CEO should have made a private call to the families and never spoken about it. Public messages of condolence are about you. Being unable to contact the families is ridiculous. Claiming to have helped them smacks of a PR-fed line without someone doing the work. Help them after the funerals, when they will need it.
There should have been no set piece office-bound media conferences. They turn into circuses, as this one did about the bonus payout and call to family. The CEO should have been available at Dreamworld whenever media wanted her.