5 lessons from a Hurricane Harvey crisis response

Natural disasters pose many problems for PR pros and crisis responders. A year after devastation flooded Houston, one PR pros looks back on a message that rose to the challenge.

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A good crisis message can reverberate days or months afterward.

A year ago, as cities in southeast Texas braced for and endured for Hurricane Harvey, storm-related messages spread across social media.

As a communications professional in Texas, I watched the disaster unfold as the hurricane hit close to home, giving me an intimate glimpse of the heroism in the Houston area with agencies, first responders and fellow Texans helping their neighbors in need.

Crisis communicators also rose to the challenge. However, one particularly poignant statement holds a lesson for all PR professionals. In advance of the storm, Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Rios (in the absence of Mayor CJ Wax) of Rockport, Texas, advised residents to evacuate.

He said in a press conference: “We’re suggesting if people are going to stay here, mark their arm with a Sharpie pen with their name and social security number. We hate to talk about things like that. It’s not something we like to do but it’s the reality; people don’t listen.”

The message resonated widely, was retweeted thousands of times, and the message itself became headlines in major news channels worldwide.

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