7 Tips for Optimal PR During Natural Disasters

When an EF3 tornado hit Springfield, Mass. in June of 2011,  Fortune 500 life insurance company MassMutual—headquartered in the community—immediately stepped up to the plate.

MassMutual offered financial aid and other assistance for the city, and opened its doors to its employees and their families. It was the company’s media relations, strategic communications and community responsibility teams’ job to get the word out to employees and the community that the company was there to help, just as it had been for the previous 160 years.

Press releases, internal communications, pro bono work and a rebuilding fair were the tools and tactics used to communicate their support to the public. Through their efforts, MassMutual was able to secure multiple media hits in the local press and glowing editorials thanking the company for its work.

For PR pros, when something unexpected like a tornado hits, having a plan in place to effectively manage the crisis should be well-established beforehand. By reacting in a swift and appropriate way, MassMutual’s strategy helped minimize the effects the natural disaster.

At a recent PR News’ real-time crisis communications webinar, Patty Norris Lubold, media relations director at MassMutual, offered the following tips to follow when faced with a similar crisis:

  • Offer a response to a community disaster even if business is not interrupted.

  • Don’t overdo brand building in the wake of a disaster.

  • Act with compassion—focus remarks on employees, community first with business a close second.

  • Collaborate with company communication teams to minimize leaks, or release of contradictory information to the public.

  • Assess what role social media needs to play on a case by case basis. Not every crisis takes a social response.

  • Let company actions lead the story and set the tone.

  • Let employees and community organizers evangelize your brand by welcoming them into the PR story.

 Follow Jamar Hudson: @jamarhudson 

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