The Big Bad Wolf: When Mother Nature Strikes

As a child, my mom diligently worked with me to read books every week. From stories of emperors with no clothes to giants in the sky, one of my favorites was the story of “The Three Little Pigs.” To this day, I am not sure why that story resonated with me, although I am sure it had something to do with the fact my mom always made funny voices for the pigs and the wolf. The moral of the story rings true, especially in Oklahoma; better to work hard and be prepared than to be ill-prepared.

During the spring months, we experience a litany of weather. High winds, thunderstorms and of course tornadoes, all of which can all be devastating to property and life-threatening to those unprepared. Are your clients prepared for Mother Nature’s onslaught? Use these five tips to build the foundation of any great crisis communications plan:

  1. Have a backpack with several printed copies of your crisis communications plan, contact numbers for essential employees and external media contacts, copies of any necessary files (or better yet, cloud-based back-up files) paper, pen, flashlight, phone charger/block, charged laptop or tablet and a few bottles of water and a snack. These tools will act as a mobile office for you. Don’t take for granted you will have any amenities such as electricity, telephone or internet nor the possibility you will be relieved from your post for at least six to eight hours.
  1. Consider an alternative location at which to set up your crisis communication post. Although important to be close to the action, that doesn’t mean in the middle of the incident. Often, the best information is deliberate collaboration between responders, leadership and communicators.
  1. Think outside of the box when addressing the issue of telling a story. There are several ways to issue statements including written, photography and videography. Utilize the medium most efficient and representative of the current situation.
  1. Do not be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” The worst mistake communicators make is taking guesses at situations which are fluid and highly visible. Earnestly stating the situation is on-going and you don’t have that information signals to both the media and those watching you are apprised of the situation, but are not “making facts up” nor willing to give erroneous information before it is confirmed – a huge credibility booster with media.
  1. Ask for help. No one can be an expert in every form of public relations. There are experts who specialize in crisis communication and have handled a variety of situations. Many of them simply charge a base feel to be “on call” and then have a contract which is immediately activated in the case of an emergency.

Remember, there is never a fail-safe plan covering every scenario. Often, the keys to success are planning, ensuring the plan is executable and maintaining a calm sense of focus to realize when the plan needs to be altered to achieve success.

About Tony Vann: Tony Vann is a proven public relations and communications professional with more than 20 years of experience in media relations, state and federal government relations, marketing communications, and non-profit administration. Prior to founding Vann & Associates, he served as President of Christian Companion Senior Care, a national franchise corporation offering services for seniors in their own homes. A position he gained by growing the company from a start up to more than 32 locations within seven states.

His career also includes service as communications director for Oklahoma’s Lieutenant Governor Mary Fallin, development director for the Oklahoma City National Memorial as well as the public relations director at Oklahoma State University in Oklahoma City as well as the legislative assistant to the House Republican Leader in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Aerial view of Orr Family Farm and the track of the EF5 tornado through Moore, Oklahoma.

Photo of Orr Family Farm after the May 20, 2013 EF5 Tornado

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *