Floods, Fires & Hurricanes: The Right Marketing Response to Natural Disasters

Consider the news in the past several weeks and months alone. From Australia to California, Mississippi to the Caribbean. It’s one natural disaster and weather event after another. They are serious and deadly threats to all countries, cities and destinations. Beyond the critical communications that municipal and state governments lead during the events, what about positioning your place after the situation has stabilized and all are safe?

How can a municipality or region give economic development prospects the confidence that it is a safe and viable choice for long-term investment? How can a destination whose economy depends on tourism keep prospective visitors interested in booking travel? Beyond the costly physical damage of a storm, lingering economic drag from misconceptions can ultimately add up to more damage.

The answer is, fight back and push forward – and do it boldly.

Municipal marketers and communicators must not only boldly communicate “open for business,” they must also build resiliency into their positioning messaging for economic development and resident attraction. A coastal city is not going to change its location. So it must build resiliency plans and communicate them openly. In an era of climate change, volatile weather or whatever you care to call it, places must embrace and anticipate their likely disasters. While of course it won’t be the first slide in the powerpoint pitch deck to site selectors, it needs to be addressed proactively. Explain the possibility and talk about how your community is prepared for the eventuality. Matter of fact. We’ve got this covered.

Beyond that systematic response, cities hit particularly hard have the opportunity to fundamentally reposition themselves in the public eye. Click here to see the story of how Downtown New Orleans repositioned after the devasting effects of and lingering perceptions brought about by Hurricane Katrina.

The result was a remarkable influx of talent and over $4 billion invested in the downtown in the following years.

What about destinations? The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism provides a shining example of post-disaster recovery that is both delicate, in light of the tragic loss of life, but enticing and welcoming. The Ministry knew that the best way to move the islands forward from the devastation of Hurricane Dorian was to reinvigorate its primary economic engine, tourism.

Earlier in 2019, the Bahamas had introduced a lively, integrated campaign called “Fly Away.” that included Eleuthera resident Lenny Kravitz’s song by the same name. Just four months after Dorian’s impact on the northern islands of the chain, the Ministry began an aggressive, spirited and adapted, “The Bahamas are Open for Business” campaign. Here was their heartfelt invitation:

The results of the campaign were outstanding and the Bahamas finished the year with record arrivals – their best year EVER. It’s a great story – click here to learn more.

Your severe weather event is a “when” not an “if.” Plan ahead with your resiliency team to not only make it through the storm, but come back fighting after the storm with intentional, honest communications and branding.