Don’t Let a Hurricane Damage Your Company’s Credibility with Employees

The eye of Hurricane Earl

Hurricane Earl was an impressive storm, but fortunately did little damage. Image by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center via Flickr

So Hurricane Earl was a bust for the most part. Aside from some power outages in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Canadian maritime provinces along with some expected beach erosion on the U.S. mainland, Earl didn’t do much damage.

I’m glad about that.

At Sprint, Earl gave our business continuity team a chance for real life test of our emergency preparedness plan. I’m happy to report that from my perspective, things ran smoothly. Our crisis communications lead these days is Crystal Davis and she does a fantastic job in gathering information from the business units, managing media calls and informing employees what’s going on.

A friend of mine who lives in Wilmington, N.C. works for a company whose crisis communications lead could take some lessons from Crystal.

A few hours before Earl was expected to brush past the Wilmington area, my friend’s employer sent an all-employee email which read in part:

“It is recommended to avoid swimming in the Atlantic at due to Hurricane Earl which has 145 m.p.h. winds. Although we will not be directly hit, we remain under a tropical storm advisory.”

As my friend quipped on Facebook, “Yeah, I was thinking of a quick swim after work in the ocean. Who’s with me?”

A good all-employee email should have simply reminded employees of the company’s inclement weather policy. Power outages and flooding were not out of the question for Wilmington and either could have prompted the business to close the next day. All employees needed to know was the website to check or number to call to find out if Earl had led to a day off from work.

Instead, the crisis lead for my friend’s employer chipped away at his or her credibility by sending an email that didn’t tell employees what they needed to know. Next time when the emergency is more dire, how many employees will simply send the email message directly to the recycle bin without reading it?


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