After Hurricane Harvey, the news for manufacturers with facilities along the Gulf coast was bad … but it was also relative. For a company called Covestro, the news could have been much worse.
Covestro is a German company that is a “world-leading supplier of high-tech polymer materials.” Post-Harvey, Covestro announced that the company wouldn’t be able to fill orders for some of its products because the facilities were too badly damaged from the hurricane. In fact, Covestro was forced to declare “force majeure,” which means the company wouldn’t be able to meet its contract requirements, affecting parts used in automobiles, appliances, furniture and construction materials. Other facilities discovered far worse conditions, including those belonging to Arkema, a chemical company that’s currently being sued by first responders who became violently ill during and after rescue attempts at the factory.
While Covestro found itself in a bad situation, it also had a communication plan, which allowed the company to make the most of difficult news. When approached by national media about issues facing major manufacturing facilities after hurricanes or other natural disasters, Covestro didn’t offer vague reassurance or a “no comment.” Company representatives instead told reporters that it was better prepared for Harvey because it had made it a practice to learn from every major disaster—manmade or natural—and improve their systems. Proactive responses are built into the company’s DNA.
In a short interview, Covestro made a tremendous impression. The company came off as one that knows you can’t prepare for everything that may come your way, but you can learn from what does come, so you are better prepared for the next disaster. That kind of forward thinking creates confidence in consumers curious about the quality of a company, and it creates confidence in investors who know they have a relatively safer bet. Consider the PR capital contained in that single opportunity. People—millions of them who heard that interview—may have had no idea the company even existed before the report, now not only knew the name but also learned that the company is working to be efficient, proactive and responsible. These are excellent qualities to display during a first impression.
Now, imagine if the reporter had asked the same question in the same way, and all the Covestro people gave her was dead air?