In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, we’ve truly witnessed the best in people and Texas. People everywhere have come to the aid of counties affected by Harvey. The storm caused devastating losses, but after a particularly polarizing year in politics, it also reminded us what really matters – each other. Never one to miss out on an opportunity for improving, there are some valuable lessons to be learned as a result of the last week and a half – both as human beings and communications professionals.
- People come first. Many of our fellow Texans have lost so much since Harvey made landfall. Still, in every news clip, they are most distraught when talking about loved ones who can’t be found, and most relieved when they realize their loved ones are safe and sound. Some material things are important, and we often feel strong, emotional connections to things we own, but nothing can replace the people who make a difference in our lives every day. As communications professionals, it’s our responsibility to find opportunities for the clients we serve to contribute where they can be of help to those in need, for no other reason than to give back to the people.
- Be proactive, not reactive. Pastor Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church recently came under fire on social media because his church was not being used as a shelter for evacuees and displaced residents. Whether the criticism was warranted or not, a good crisis communication plan could have prevented the situation from escalating to the magnitude that it did. It’s important to have a single spokesperson through who key messages are distributed to avoid the spread of misinformation. Finally, when responding to criticism and backlash, do so authentically and prepared with a plan to rectify the situation.
- Social media is a powerful tool – and it can be used for good and bad. We manage the social media accounts for many of our clients. Some of those clients have tens of thousands of followers. In times of emergency, it’s vital that if we are contributing to the conversation, we are doing so with factual information. Catastrophic events put everyone on edge, and it’s easy to hit the “share” button on the first terrifying post that pops up in a news feed – it’s our job to research and know the difference between what is real and helpful, and what is fake and purposefully inflammatory.
Our hearts are with all those who were in Harvey’s path. Sammis Ochoa is currently accepting donations for our Texas neighbors at Geekdom (110 E. Houston St., 7th floor), every day between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. We are requesting water, toiletries, air mattresses, nonperishable snack food, diapers, toilet paper, baby wipes, pillows, blankets, and pet food. Please consider donating what you can!
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”― Fred Rogers