Hurricane Season can teach us a lot about crisis communications. The lessons about Hurricane Season can be transferred to other aspects of your organization’s crisis communications strategy.
The SituationHub crisis communications software does an excellent job putting the right communications pre-written statements and templates at your fingertips.
Here’s why hurricanes and weather are a special category of crisis. We generally think of a crisis as either a smoldering crisis or a sudden crisis, but a hurricane or the associated flooding or tornadoes from a hurricane can fall into both categories.
Keep in mind, you don’t have to live in a traditional “hurricane zone” to feel the effects of a hurricane. Far from landfall companies face tornadoes, heavy rains, and floods. Hurricane Ida in 2021 pushed 8 ½ feet of water through my community of Mandeville, LA, just north of New Orleans. Yet clients in Pennsylvania were hit with massive floods several days later that sent totes of chemicals floating down a stream.
Because hurricanes, tornadoes and floods come with warnings, this type of crisis allows you to manage the expectations of your audience before the crisis hits.
To do this successfully, you simply need the right tools, and you need the right attitude. Both require you to make a commitment to have a crisis communications plan written on a sunny day when you have clarity of thought, so you can communicate effectively on your darkest days when anxiety is high.
A proper crisis communications plan should show you how to use the days and hours before a hurricane to let stakeholders know how their relationship with you might be impacted.
For a utility, that means managing expectations about the loss of creature comforts, such as electricity, food, water, ice and air conditioning. For a chemical distributor or manufacturing company, manage the expectations of customers regarding supply chain interruptions. Banks and credit unions should manage expectations about service interruptions. Communities must manage expectations about evacuations and post-storm recovery.
Part of managing expectations before a weather event is calling upon your stakeholders to exercise some degree of personal responsibility. You are calling on them to plan ahead. If they plan ahead and take action, there is less suffering or discomfort, or business interruption if the storm delivers a significant punch. If you manage expectations correctly there will be less complaining by stakeholders after the event because you were a straight shooter with them before the crisis.
In addition to managing expectations before the storm, you need to aggressively manage expectations after the storm. The messaging varies, based on whether you suffered a direct hit, a glancing blow, or if you were spared completely.
Based on your impact, manage post-storm expectations as quickly as you can. Let stakeholders know when things will get back to normal and what role both you and they play in that recovery period.
If the hurricane creates a special hazard, you then need specific communications templates. I’ve witnessed massive explosions and chemical releases because of damage or the loss of power at a chemical plant. That means you need your fire, explosion, and chemical release pre-written statements ready to use.
Use hurricane season as a reason to adopt a “Be Prepared” attitude. The lessons for hurricane season crisis communications will carry over into many other areas of your business.
If we can help you “Be Prepared” by writing a crisis communications plan and connecting it to the SituationHub crisis communications software, use this link to schedule a free discovery call.
Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…” and founder of SituationHub crisis communications software.
More crisis communications articles: