Modifying Your Message When Disaster Strikes

Internet Marketing for Attorneys, Surgeons, and Dentists

By: Alicia Frost, Social Media Specialist

Marketing is important; marketing is necessary. All marketing efforts are meant to be tended to and nurtured on a daily basis. The strategy, design, and implementation of an overall project  takes a lot of time and an extreme amount of planning and creating.

If there is one takeaway  every marketer should be aware of, though, it’s that not every project plan is going to work out. All the effort in the world can be put towards an idea or design, and you may still fall short of what the client wants or what will achieve the tangible results that we all want for our clients.

Plan B is always necessary; you sometimes have to think quickly and far out of the box. Fortunately, this is a pretty well known rule. What too many marketers do forget about, however, is planning for the unthinkable.

On August 26th, 2017, Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas as a category 4 storm and level 7 disaster, the highest American Red Cross disaster designation. Harvey is the most powerful hurricane to hit the United States in 10 years.

Awareness Is Your Ally

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, many businesses were quick to modify their marketing plans in order to adjust for this natural disaster. Some businesses, however, were not quick enough.

Due to this lack of planning for the unthinkable, Airbnb unfortunately began a “floating world” themed email campaign this past weekend promoting water-themed homes and houseboats. Two of the subject headlines read “Stay Above Water” and “Live the life aquatic with these floating homes.”

This Twitter user was quick to fire back at Airbnb for their insensitive emails:

Airbnb has since apologized and set up “Urgent Accommodations”, offering people places to stay free of charge. This is an extremely accommodating and sincere gesture, but it’s hard for us to forget about the original email campaign.

Your Customers Care - So Should You.

Does a national disaster mean your marketing needs to stop entirely? No!

It means you have to be accommodating and you have to be prepared to switch directions with your campaigns.

It’s sometimes difficult to imagine switching up a project that took weeks to plan and an approval process that took even longer, especially when you are not being affected by the natural disaster taking place. Hurricane Harvey has taken lives and left thousands of people injured and without homes. People have and will come out of this tragedy with no sense of belonging because of everything they have lost.

This is what’s important right now, and awareness and compassion are the messages we should be marketing. As a whole, we as marketers can help and be supportive of what is going on in the world and still do our jobs - as long as we take the necessary steps to prepare for something like this.

Don’t Ignore - Acknowledge

The first step in preparing for a crisis is to identify potential crises. Study what has happened to other companies in the midst of a crisis and don’t assume that history won’t repeat itself.

Second, you should also establish a state of readiness. Does your company have  a crisis plan? Have you made your company prepared and knowledgeable about certain policies and procedures? Ideally, every employee should be aware of the company's ethics and values prior to a crisis taking place.

Also, don’t ever forget the power of social media. Do you have the tools and people in place to monitor Facebook, YouTube, blogs, Twitter, and all other social platforms? Do you feel comfortable with your team addressing different crises on these platforms?

At all costs, however, don’t neglect to do what almost every company doesn’t want to do - acknowledge what is happening in our world. It’s really easy to just ignore an issue and wait for it to pass in the hopes of not causing any slight controversy or negative commentary. Addressing a crisis provides a foundation of credibility, trust, and humanization for a business and its brand.

As marketers, we are holding ourselves to a standard of being a voice for companies; we need to use that same voice for ourselves as well as for those being affected by a crisis.