Anyone who works in PR knows our days can change as fast as the weather—sunny and glorious one minute and dark and stormy the next. While we can’t control the weather, one of the perks of our job is that we can control our reaction to it, or any adverse situation, for that matter. Do you have a communication plan in place if a crisis situation should roll in? Here are the top three action steps we take when deploying a plan of attack after a natural disaster:
Make your job easier by anticipating the crisis before it arrives and preparing a system of communication. Decide on the chain of command for decision-making and who will speak on behalf of your company when controversy strikes. If you wake up one morning and a tree has fallen on your office building, who would you call first? Who develops the message? Who has to approve it? How would you get the message to your employees, customers and other key stakeholders? How will you handle calls from the news media? Do you have a media-trained spokesperson?
In addition to mapping out procedures for the flow of information, you should also brainstorm a list of possible crises—weather-related and otherwise—and think through how you would respond to each. And this goes beyond communications strategy. For example, who would you call to remove the fallen tree from your roof? Who would repair the roof? Who would dry out your office? Who would recover any digital files that were corrupted when water leaked into your servers?
Spread the word
Decide which communication channels you’ll use to disseminate your carefully crafted message. For example, email is usually best for communicating with insiders like employees, key customers and shareholders, as well as key external publics such as government officials, especially those who regulate or otherwise have some degree of control over your organization. Tailor the message to each audience and make sure you have a system in place to respond quickly to any questions your communication generates. Social media can be an excellent channel for reaching those who are interested in your organization but are not directly affected by it, like consumers, fans and followers. These “acquaintances” versus “close friends” can actually be the source of the most damaging rumors if they’re not kept in the loop and assured that things are under control. Finally, you’ll want to be in close contact with appropriate news media—which could include local, national and trade outlets, depending on your organization and the nature of the crisis—to assure your message doesn’t miss anyone and beats the spread of bad information.
In weather-related crisis situations specifically, a top concern is going to be public safety. If applicable, assure your publics of the safety of those within the organization and offer resources to help those who might be in danger or who have suffered health emergencies. Additionally, be mindful that crisis situations are sensitive, so make sure to halt any scheduled social media posts that aren’t delivering important updates or ways to help.
Go after the good
One of the best parts of our jobs as PR practitioners is getting to create and spread goodwill. After a traumatic weather event, think about the ways in which your company is uniquely positioned to help. Can you offer your services to those in need? Utilize your community involvement partnerships to spread the word about opportunities to donate money or resources. Being proactive and vocal about your efforts will allow your audiences to get involved, too.
While the weather is uncontrollable, we have the power to have a plan in place when disaster strikes. By following these three steps, you’ll be ready to tackle whatever crisis comes your way.
A former journalist, Jeff has worked in public relations since 1985, serving as a senior executive of two public relations agencies before establishing the Bradford Group in Nashville in 2000. The Bradford Group is Ranked by O’Dwyer’s as #1 among Tennessee PR firms specializing in finance, #2 among Tennessee PR firms specializing in technology and the 6th fastest growing PR firm in the U.S. in the under $2 million revenue category.