Superstorm Sandy: Approaches to Consider for Emergency and Citizenship Communications

October 31, 2012

Corporate communicators may be wondering how to support either emergency communications to employees/customers, or humanitarian efforts in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

Here’s a quick list of top approaches to consider:

EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT TOP APPROACHES

1. Ensure employees that their welfare is of utmost importance to company.  Consider sharing key official information to keep food/water safe and to manage mold in flood-affected areas:

2. Connect with local authorities’ information systems to receive official notification of resumed services, power, and/or communications

3. Conduct “roll-call” with Business Continuity/Risk/Security teams to ensure there is an effort to establish headcount, critical needs and ability to continue operations

  • Non-affected areas should provide senior leadership with information on how they might be able to support
  • Ensure that employees know where to turn for ongoing information – voicemail messages, website, social media, etc.

4. Consider contingencies and work-arounds to support employee situation (with Business Continuity/Risk/Security teams) – including the possibility to gather/operate out of alternate locationsIf accurate and appropriate (e.g., critical services): Provide broad reassurance that company will consider the best ways to support short-term service resumption and get business back to normal in the long-term

  • Provide support and frequent communications to affected locations/operations, including information about contingencies to restore services
  • If alternate locations are operational, consider using social media and other vehicles to alert customers/consumers and also to set expectations

5. Consider the potential of crime/looting/fraud and work with local authorities to help ensure employee/customer safety.

6. Correct misinformation as appropriate

7. If company is faced with death or major injuries: Express sympathy; consider providing grief counseling and employee assistance program support

CORPORATE CITIZENSHIP TOP APPROACHES

1. Consider appropriate relief efforts:

  • Involve employees in helping to determine adjustments to make on behalf of customers and communities, including special price breaks/giveaways for a set period of time; a donation of key relief materials; free services, etc.
  • While media is focused on the storm and effects; social media may be the best way to spread information about these efforts

2. Consider if company should conduct philanthropy/humanitarian efforts:

  • If the company is set to endorse a particular charity effort, make sure these are properly vetted – fraud is common
  • Offer employees an opportunity to donate directly to the relief efforts, including a potential company match
  • Also involve employees in efforts to spread the word and engage in community support

Ketchum’s Issues & Crisis Specialty Team can help customize approaches for clients in need. Contact john.bradbury@ketchum.com or james.donnelly@ketchum.com for more information.

James Donnelly is senior vice president, crisis management with broad experience in issues/crisis management, crisis training, communications training, corporate public relations, and global corporate communications. He is also the main steward of the agency’s North American Issues & Crisis Management Network – a group of 40+ counselors.

As a senior member of Ketchum’s Issue and Crisis Management Specialty Team, James leads programs that include: threat assessments, capability building, trainings, simulations, strategic counsel and response support. In addition, James leads programming of the Executive Crisis Management Academy, the most comprehensive training program ever offered on crisis management.

James is currently an advisory board member of the Center for Global Public Relations at UNC Charlotte, a university where he also guest lectures on crisis management. He can be followed at www.twitter.com/jamesjdonnelly and through his blog: www.jamesjdonnelly.com.