Weathering the Storm: Is Your Hurricane Communications Plan Strong Enough?

July 22, 2019

While summer ushers in plenty of sunny days, family vacations and extended school breaks — it also brings with it a less-welcomed moment in time — hurricane season. And although the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting a “near-normal” season for 2019, with two to four major hurricanes, the landfall of Hurricane Barry earlier this month is a glaring reminder that the season, which runs through November, is already upon us.

Hurricane Preparedness

For most businesses, hurricane preparation boils down to the essentials: securing buildings, ensuring food and water supplies are on hand and, oftentimes, allowing employees enough time to get to safety when a disaster strikes.

But for those who lead many destinations and properties, there is no leaving town, there is only a critical need to proactively communicate with guests, employees, local officials, law enforcement, media, and other stakeholders to ensure you’re receiving and disseminating the proper information, all while protecting your guests, and reputation, in the process.

If you’re located on the Atlantic or Gulf coast, you’ve probably got a basic plan in place, but does it hold up to hurricane force winds? We’ve compiled a quick checklist of things to keep in mind to ensure your issues and crisis plan holds water BEFORE any flooding begins…

1. Make sure employees know their roles and how to activate against your action plan quickly 

2. Create and approve content now, so your team is prepared and aligned on what information they need to share with stakeholders before and after a hurricane

3. Have a contingency plan for how you will get information out if communications are down, both to the public and to employees

4. Update your (digital) rolodex to make sure you have up-to-date contact information for local officials, emergency responders and key media on hand, including satellite phone numbers

5. Outline a cascade of criteria to help determine how and when you’ll pivot from relief, to recovery, to “open for business” after a storm

Interested in learning more about how your destination’s plan stacks up against the best-in-class? Take our Hurricane Prep Plan Assessment.

If you feel you’re not ready to weather the storm, Ketchum’s travel and issues and crisis specialists can move fast to build out the processes and relationships needed to protect your reputation (and ensure visitor satisfaction) before the next big storm. Connect with me here to learn more. 

Julia Smith joined Ketchum in August 2010 and is a Managing Account Supervisor with the Issues and Crisis Management Specialty Group. For nearly a decade, she has specialized in helping clients get comfortable when facing uncomfortable situations.

As part of this group, Julia has provided counsel on a broad spectrum of situations, including criticism of campaigns and product issues for CPG, spirits and food industry clients, social media activism, corporate sponsorship scrutiny, product recalls, high-profile domestic and international sports crises, litigation, labor action, tourism and hospitality issues, manufacturing issues, data breaches and government investigations.

Julia developed comprehensive issues and crisis management plans and training programs, has led global and regional analysis of issues trends to inform her clients’ strategic yearly planning, and has facilitated crisis media trainings and simulations for clients across industries. Julia has also developed thought leadership campaigns to highlight various executive and company platforms, with the goal of proactively building reputation in strategic areas.

Julia received a B.S. in Public Relations and a minor in Business Administration in May 2009 from The University of Florida, where she graduated with Honors and was a member of Florida Blue Key.