The decision not to evacuate Houston in advance of Hurricane Harvey had to be a tough one. But once the call was made, everyone had to sing from the same song sheet. It’s basic crisis communication, as taught by FEMA to hundreds of crisis planners each year.
Gov. Greg Abbott didn’t get the training, apparently. Ad libbing a news conference Friday morning, he said, “Even if an evacuation order has not been issued by your local official, if you are in areas between Corpus Christi and Houston … you need to strongly consider evacuating.”
Houston’s emergency preparedness officials flooded traditional media and social media to get the official word out: shelter in place; listen to local emergency preparedness officials for any updates.
Rumors and misinformation swirl in a crisis. Communication has to be simple, clear and consistent. You don’t need the governor mucking it up.
Respect the brand, Amazon!
Amazon’s takeover of Whole Foods portends a lot of change — much of it greater convenience and lower costs for consumers. But selling Amazon Echos next to the produce with a “farm fresh” sign? That’s a slap in the face of the Whole Foods brand.
Whole Foods has built an admirable brand based on solid core values of good, healthful food, sustainably sourced. Don’t bastardize it by applying it to a plastic gadget that makes buying Amazon stuff easier. Whole Foods founder John Mackey and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos come from different galaxies when it comes to corporate culture. I hope something of the Whole Foods ethos survives the Amazon Borg.
The Friday news dump was smart PR
Announcing the Joe Arpaio pardon on a Friday afternoon as a hurricane was bearing down on U.S. soil was sound public relations. Controversial, yes. But the Friday news dump is a common PR practice. I’m just surprised this White House pulled it off.
When you have news to release that you know will be negative or controversial, putting it out late on a Friday gives you the opportunity to blast and run, limiting reporters’ opportunity to get reactions. With any luck, the story will play through the weekend, and by the time Monday morning rolls around, reporters and editors are on to something else.
I’ve spent years on city desks, fuming over the 3 p.m. news dump from the governor or the police chief. Now on the other side of the fence, I know this practice doesn’t make friends in the newsroom, but it works and it is ethical.
The First Lady’s stiletto heels on her way to a hurricane disaster zone proves that a brand is built from the inside out. Attempts to paper over core traits will end in failure. It’s like putting lipstick on a pig.
Steve Krizman is a communication and PR change agent who has led innovation in health care, journalism, and higher education. He currently is a tenure-track professor of PR and journalism at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Steve is sole proprietor of Connected Communication, LLC, a consultancy that helps organizations develop integrated PR, communication, and marketing programs. His particular expertise is in the health industry, including insurance, health delivery systems, and digital health.