Ooooohhhhh hi. Busy is an understatement from the hurricanes all over the country and now fires in Napa taking all of our wine. It’s like mother nature is trying to tell us something…
The last month had a lot of learning curves for entrepreneurs of all shapes and sizes after a natural disaster. Everything around you hit the pause button and becomes a serious WTF situation. PR folks, we know. Major storms inundate the news cycle and we carry ourselves with a certain je ne sais quoi than to forcefully insert our clients to ride the wave of weather coverage. So we go into standby mode and adjust our strategy. Living through it, and coming out of the other side with none of my clients firing me, I suppose I did some things correctly.
The lesson: natural disasters can’t be avoided, but communication disasters can. Here are my top PR pointers to come out on top of a natural disaster:
- Be sensitive. Share your well-wishes for your city and patrons via email and social media. Talk about how things held up for you, if your operations was impacted and how you are involved to repair and rebuild (or plan to be) so your customers can join you. Become human.
- Put everything else on hold. Reconsider your grand opening or upcoming announcement to refocus all of your energy on your city. Simply, it’s not about you anymore. Organize and participate in relief efforts and partner with causes you believe in for the speedy betterment of your city. The goodwill you will generate is worth so much more than using natural disasters to make money.
- Think “outside-in.” Take a ‘we are here to serve you’ approach for as long as you need to whether that be days, weeks or months. Empathize. Even if it is related to relief efforts, if you start saying I, I, I… me, me, me… my, my, my… it shows you are only thinking about yourself and forgetting the victims. Potentially forgetting your customers. It’s the basics of business. If you take care of your customers, the money will follow. If you chase after the money, you will end up losing customers, money and trust – the latter being the hardest thing to rebuild.
- Build closer relationships with your community. In times of great need, people have exceptionally good memories. They remember those that help, and they never forget those that try to take advantage of them. Smart companies will take the longer view and sacrifice sales in the short run to build goodwill and trust that will last for years to come.
- Be prepared. Surprisingly, many businesses are unprepared for a disaster with no comms plan in place. Ask yourself, and be honest, if you easily can say how your customers will react if your business suffers a disaster? Or what are the responsibilities of your employees? What action needs to happen to ensure business as usual? Knowing the answers to these questions before a disaster prevents a communications crisis during.
The way you behave in a disaster tells people what kind of company you are forever.