As many of you know, our company is headquartered in Houston, Texas. We recently experienced an unprecedented hurricane that devastated the entire city. We’ve banded together to rebuild and have emerged much stronger.

Several brands stepped in to offer support to the region. However, other brands were criticized for their responses to the catastrophe.

Houston pastor Joel Osteen was widely criticized for not opening his Lakewood megachurch as a shelter.

Others were condemned for publicizing their good deeds or for appearing insensitive.

Local furniture store owner Jim McIngvale, best known as “Mattress Mack,” was praised for his goodwill, prompting Houstonians to petition for “Mattress Mack Day.

Mattress Mack Day Petition

As a brand, how should you respond during and after a natural disaster? You don’t want to brag about helping and risk being perceived as insincere. But you also don’t want customers and prospects to think you don’t care about them and their hardship. To discuss this tough question, we asked four publicists for their take on how brands should respond.

  • “The biggest thing is to communicate. Don’t make it about the company but rather who the company serves and its employees. People love seeing the human part of brands. So when a brand posts about what it’s doing or planning on doing, it removes the mask and scores both with consumers and potential consumers.”

Vannessa Wade,
Connect The Dots PR

  • “The trouble can sometimes be that your brand, however large or small, can be a target for internet trolls or fame chasers these days. Posts go viral so quickly. . . and if you are in the middle of a catastrophe such as Harvey, it can be hard to respond if you yourself have no access to power or phones or need to be rescued. Brands should have in-house communications teams to prepare for best- and worst-case scenarios.”

Joseph Williams,
Pacific Communications Group

  • “It never hurts for big brands to show there are actual humans working behind the label. At a time when so many things are becoming computerized and digitized, it’s a nice touch when a brand acknowledges the experiences of real people. With that said, there’s a fine line between showing empathy and appearing to profit from the misfortune of others during the time of disaster. If your brand is doing something to help those affected, such as making a donation or providing a discount on services, the only way people will know is if you publicize this information. I believe the brand’s true intention will always shine through.”

Misty Starks,
3B Resources Group Public Relations

  • “Whether you focus on relief or recovery efforts, communicate in a thoughtful, valuable and timely manner. The best PR is to do what you say you are going to do for customers and your employees. Your integrity makes the biggest impact during a disaster.”

Shar-day Campbell,
award-winning communicator and certified social media expert