Hurricanes & Crisis Communications

(Hurricane Sandy.  Image Credit: here.)

The past few days have been full of updates and information regarding Sandy, the hurricane that slammed into the East Coast on Monday.  Even here in Manhattan, Kan. people are posting updates and information regarding loved ones.  Still, without any physical effects in the area, it’s easy for me to forget that a couple hundred miles away many people are dealing with a crisis.

Last week Andy DiOrio, Director of Corporate Communications for AMC Theaters in Kansas City, came to talk to our PRSSA chapter about how he has responded to crisis in his position. His three main principles are certainly applicable now.

1) Solid Internal Core = Solid Output

It’s important in any crisis to make sure that all employees are one the same page as far as the company message.  Andy recommended that the CEO send a message to everyone outlining the position that will be represented.  People are more likely to ask the friend they know who works at your company for information than call for an official statement. If your company is accepting donations, everyone needs to know about it.

2) Transparency + Truth = Trust

Although a natural disaster does not necessarily cause people to question the honesty of a company, these values need to be remembered at all times. Transparency during chaos is the most effective way to build and maintain trust.

3) Engagement Eases Change

Work to help make the unfamiliar understandable.  Continue conversations about the events until people are comfortable.  It’s also to show that you know what you are talking about so you don’t appear out of touch like George Bush after Hurricane Katrina.

A final point is to never try to use the crisis as a way to promote yourself.  Your online shopping sale for people stuck inside might seem witty… *cough* American Apparel *cough* but it really just looks insensitive.


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