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BUS101 | Communication During the Brisbane Floods in 2011

Answer:

Introduction:

The main purpose of this report is to study the importance of effective communication within an organization and between an organization and its stakeholders. The report carries out an analysis of a case study provided on the infamous Brisbane floods in 2011, and examines how efficient channels of communication between the City Council and the general public would have reduced the disastrous impact of the floods (Bohensky and Leitch 2014). Apart from a critical analysis of the methods of communication used, recommendations have also been provided in the report with regards to effective communication strategies and how they may be implemented.


An overview of the situation 

In January 2011, there were incidents of major floods in Queensland, which was accordingly declared as a disaster zone. It was estimated by the Bureau of Meteorology that more than 40,000 homes and properties in Brisbane would be affected by flood. The necessary information was communicated to the City Council, who was then responsible for communicating the same to the general public. However, faulty communication lines, failure to reach certain communities and power outages hindered the communication process. As a result, the Council was not effectively able to reach its stakeholders. The internal stakeholders in this case were the employees of the Council. However, in this case, the external stakeholders were mainly affected and suffered the consequences (Alderman, Turner and Tong 2013). The most important stakeholder in this case would be the community of Brisbane, who should have been informed about the impending disaster in time.

Discussion:

Communication: parties responsible and communication issues

In the event of a natural disaster, it is the responsibility of the local government bodies to inform the citizens about the impending threats so that the concerned parties can take necessary measures for themselves and their loved ones. This is known as risk communication (Kasperson 2014). The basic foundational principle of risk communication is the urgency of the situation (Wachinger et al. 2013). As soon as the City Council found out about the floods or the possibility of such disasters, it should have developed a well defined and all encompassing communication plan. Such a communication plan would establish the objectives, the channels of communication and the content to be communicated. Equipped with such a plan, it would have been easier for the Council to inform the citizens. However, certain unforeseen circumstances like power outages and the inability to reach out to certain sections of the community made it difficult to communicate the information. Another major barrier was the lack of effective planning and strategies in case of disaster. In some cases, the messages conveyed through public events were not cross checked or screened before dissemination. This resulted in a lot of inaccurate information which alarmed the stakeholders and created confusion and chaos. Social media rapidly became one of the most important tools to communicate information about the disaster. While social media has a widespread influence allowing people across the continent to connect and come forward for help, there were certain disadvantages as well. For instance, a large number of false rumors were spread through social media which led to unnecessary panic (Bruns et al. 2012). As such, the principles of social media communication must be discussed since this was adopted as one of the major modes of communication during the flood. Despite initial obstacles, measures were taken by the local police to address these rumors and eliminate them instantly. It was deduced that the utilization of social media, along with traditional communication channels would further speed up the process of risk communication (Public Relations Sydney, 2018).

The people who were affected as a result of such faulty communication strategies were the ordinary people of Brisbane. The Shannon- Weaver model of communication, which is the simplest and most straightforward of all communication theories, may be used to study the impact of communication strategies of the Council. The theory states that communication is a linear process where information is communicated from the sender to the recipient through a specific channel (Rogers and Valente 2017). Various modes of communication could have been used by the Council (sender) to communicate with the general public (recipient). Yet, the government failed to do so and the community had to face the repercussions. The Osgood Schramm model on the other hand states that communication is circular rather than linear. This means that the recipients should not be passive but should be encouraged to voice their opinions and concerns (Heath and Bryant 2013).

Conclusion:

To conclude, it can be said that communication would largely depend on effective planning and strategic management on part of the sender. In the case of natural disasters like the floods in Brisbane, the onus is on the governing body to inform the concerned communities and warn them in advance. Failure to do so would not only inconvenience the communities but might also lead to widespread destruction and devastation. The aforementioned models study the nature of communication and based on these, it can be concluded that faulty communication strategies were responsible for failure of the risk management tactics by the City Council in Brisbane.

Recommendations for communication strategies 

The following recommendations can be made:

  • Social media should be incorporated as part of the Council’s communication strategies. In an era of technological advancement, social media has the most pervasive influence on mankind. Unlike traditional modes of communication, social media would rarely malfunction. Thus, alongside traditional means of communication, the City Council could integrate social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to communicate with the local communities.
  • Since most people communicated through phones during the floods, it can be assumed that this is the most commonly preferred mode of communication during disasters. Technological innovations should be implemented to avoid disruption of services, power outages and to promote stability during such high pressure situations.
  • A feedback system should be implemented. As stated by the Osgood Schramm model, communication works both ways. The stakeholders, in this case the Brisbane community, should also be allowed to communicate their concerns and doubts to the City Council. They should be able to raise their issues and publicly express their opinions as well.
  • Communication training should be extended to the local police as well. For instance, in situations like floods, citizens would require some written confirmation from the police validating the news. Adequate measures should be taken for the same.

References:

Alderman, K., Turner, L.R. and Tong, S., 2013. Assessment of the health impacts of the 2011 summer floods in Brisbane. Disaster medicine and public health preparedness, 7(4), pp.380-386.

Bohensky, E.L. and Leitch, A.M., 2014. Framing the flood: a media analysis of themes of resilience in the 2011 Brisbane flood. Regional Environmental Change, 14(2), pp.475-488.

Bruns, A., Burgess, J.E., Crawford, K. and Shaw, F., 2012. # qldfloods [email protected] QPSMedia: Crisis communication on Twitter in the 2011 south east Queensland floods.

Heath, R.L. and Bryant, J., 2013. Human communication theory and research: Concepts, contexts, and challenges. Routledge.

Kasperson, R., 2014. Four questions for risk communication. Journal of Risk Research, 17(10), pp.1233-1239.

Public Relations Sydney. (2018). Social media and the Queensland floods. [online] Available at: https://publicrelationssydney.com.au/social-media-and-the-queensland-floods/

Rogers, E.M. and Valente, T.W., 2017. A history of information theory in communication research. In Between Communication and Information (pp. 35-56). Routledge.

Wachinger, G., Renn, O., Begg, C. and Kuhlicke, C., 2013. The risk perception paradox—implications for governance and communication of natural hazards. Risk analysis, 33(6), pp.1049-1065.

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