Protecting your organisation’s reputation during the Disability Royal Commission

With the Disability Royal Commission kicking off its public hearings in Sydney last week, disability organisations and service providers may come under intense scrutiny.

It’s vital that your organisation prepares now in order to best manage issues that may arise in the media. Our Head of Strategy and Media, Jackie Hanafie, offers her tips for protecting your organisation’s reputation.

The disability sector – like the aged care sector – has its many strengths underpinned by passionate and tireless advocates working within it. But, it’s not without its challenges. It’s the nature of the work – and of a sector that is still evolving and adapting to the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability public hearings commenced in Sydney last week which increases the likelihood of disability organisations and service providers facing public scrutiny. Many organisations may feel like they are forced to defend their reputations. Whether or not you do this publicly will depend on the circumstances. It’s important that you develop a well-planned communications and issues management response now.

Although you may not know which issues will surface, the issues can be mapped, and preparations can be made. It’s important your organisation prepares well in advance of any issue or crisis developing.

If you’re not sure where to start, here is a checklist to get the ball rolling.

Conduct a risk assessment

Identify any governance, risk and conduct issues that may arise from the royal commission’s terms of reference and conduct an initial risk assessment. What are the risks? How likely are they to happen and what will be the impact?

Prepare an issues management plan

Using your risk assessment and other assessments about which issues could be problematic for you should they arise in the media, your plan should consider all of your key stakeholders (internal and external) in the context of the royal commission and map each likely issue, your organisation’s response and how that response should be communicated.

Stay on top of the issues

One of the most important things you can do during the royal commission is to stay abreast of everything that’s happening, what others are saying and what the media is reporting. While the royal commission is being held, media reports and public perception can impact staff and clients in your organisation. Staying ahead of what’s happening will allow you to identify any potential issues and manage them with communications and dissemination of messages before they turn into a more serious situation.
Proactively position your organisation: Ensuring that there is good-will and positive messages out there by utilising your owned media channels is a proactive way to protect the position of your organisation. Talk about your organisation’s well-managed services and positive community outcomes on your social media, newsletters and blogs, proactively engage with key stakeholders to build positive relationships and maintain communications with key stakeholders to communicate any issues or risks before they arise.

In the event of an issue or crisis

If a reputational issue does happen to arise in the media, or you find your organisation under scrutiny be sure to assess the situation and communicate with stakeholders immediately. The best way to manage a crisis is to be open and honest with all stakeholders without absconding from the truth or hiding involvement.
During the royal commission, issues and media reports may arise that are out of your control. But the better prepared you are now, the better position you will be in to manage the risks and outcomes.

No matter your views on the royal commission and the potential involvement of your organisation, the bottom line is that you will be likely to manage communications issues and protect your organisation’s reputation if you are proactive in assessing the likely risks and planning a communications response well ahead of time.


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