It’s Not Just What You Tell Them; It’s HOW You Tell Them

Hurricanes aren’t like other disasters. People know about them days before they happen. They shift, strengthen, and sometimes go away. For days, people are in a state of flux. They know they need to prepare, but they also know it could be a wasted effort. The key to effective hurricane communications, particularly in the construction industry, is to break through that clutter. Get your audience to pay attention. You now should know what you are going to say. You have identified who gets the hurricane message. You’ve even determined when to say it to get the necessary attention. The question you must answer now is:

How are you going to share the information? What is the best way to communicate critical hurricane messages? This question of how breaks into two parts: Where and How.

Where are you going to share the information? Identify the channels that work for your audiences. Where do they expect to get the message, and where are they most likely to pay attention?

• Email
• Social channels
• In-person (group or individual)
• Telephone
• Combination of channels

You get the picture – there are a lot of options. Now is not the time to try a new channel or introduce something different. Stick with the tried and true, and what you know works best. The important thing is to get the information to them in the most trusted and reliable way possible. When something bad happens during a hurricane, it’s often a consequence of someone not receiving critical information. If you share your message in an unfamiliar way, your audience may miss it. There is nothing worse than important information not reaching its audience. During a hurricane, consequences are dire – ill-prepared sites, long-term business stoppage, and people in the path of danger.

Even more important than the channel you choose (and that’s very important) is how you “say” what you need to say. Hurricanes are a bit stressful. OK, they’re extremely stressful. Take what the audience may be feeling or handling into perspective. People want to know that you care, and it’s about more than just your business. They’re worried about their homes and their families. You need to break through the noise. Make sure the audience knows you understand they’re dealing with other responsibilities too.

Simply put: Show empathy. Let the audience know that you’re in this together. Tone matters. Keep it simple and think about the words you choose. One poorly chosen word or phrase can destroy all the work done to create an effective hurricane communications strategy.

For example:

It’s two days before a hurricane is scheduled to make landfall. The following is the final message going to the site supervisor in charge of preparing the site.

“Thank you for your hard work to prepare the site. All preparations must be complete, and no employees or partners should be at the site. Our top priority is the safety of our employees, partners, and community.

Please reach out to me after the storm has passed to let me know you and your family are ok. We will then begin planning for any cleanup.

Thank you for your leadership and hard work. Be safe and take all precautions to protect you and your loved ones.”

Imagine if the underlined phrases weren’t part of the message. The communication met the objective – ensuring the site is prepared, but the audience wouldn’t feel as if anyone cared. Crisis communications must be a combination of truth, urgency, and empathy.

Remember to stick to the following:

• Tell the truth!
• Communicate with a sense of urgency (not panic).
• Show empathy.

Incorporate these simple guidelines in hurricane (or any crisis) communications, and they will be off to a great start.

For more information visit www.landsouth.com or call 904.273.6004

ABOUT LANDSOUTH CONSTRUCTION…Building Ideas

LandSouth Construction, the Southeast’s premier general contractor, specializing in multifamily, senior living, and mixed–use development, was named one of the nation’s Top 25 apartment builders by the National Multifamily Housing Council. Since 1998 LandSouth has transformed ideas into best–in–class communities through superior construction management and building long–term relationships. Headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla. LandSouth has completed more than 18,000 units including apartments, hotels, senior living, student and military housing, condominiums, townhomes, and mixed–use. For more information, please contact Erica Zumstein at 904.273.6004 ext. 109 | ezumstein@landsouth.com or visit www.landsouth.com