Nonprofit Disaster Communications Done Right (Case Study)


Here’s the hot-off-the-presses story I just received from Leili Khalessi, Communications Manager at RedRover. Leili and her colleagues have done a terrific job responding to the deadly tornadoes and torrential rains that are wreaking havoc with our lives, and those of our pets.

The response has been great—Leili reports that local agencies have shared RedRover’s disaster-related resources via Twitter and other channels and the org’s 15,000+ Facebook fans have been sharing its disaster-resource & assistance graphic  far and wide. “We’ve also received some press inquiries from pet-related publications because of our coverage on the tornadoes,” says Leili.

You can bet folks will remember RedRover’s help and moral support, with donations, loyalty and more. Here’s what Leili and team did, and how they made it happen quickly and effectively.

Disaster Response
Leili and her communications team started sharing these resources for tornado victims even before the weather hit and are continuing to share guidance and support. “Our quick, focused outreach made me think of  your guidance on crisis and disaster communications, and the key point you stress—relevance rules! We haven’t deployed volunteers yet, but the RedRover team has made a practice of jumping on social media when natural disasters hit,” she writes.

Here’s how the RedRover team newsjacked these disasters—connecting what’s top of mind to the org’s mission and network of partners, friends and others. These examples showcase how well RedRover’s disaster outreach serves supporters and other animal owners, and advances its mission (bringing animals out of crisis and strengthening the bond between people and animals):

Ready to Roll—How They Did It

The RedRover staff had a process in place for disaster communications and that’s the key to this win. That process includes a work flow with clear roles and responsibilities as Leili outlines here:

“My team (Danielle Gates—Communications Assistant and our Facebook community manager—and Bailey Mannisto-Iches—Marketing Coordinator and our Twitter community manager) took the lead and rocked it!As soon as I got the news about the tornadoes, I asked them to draft our PR announcement, set up our Hootsuite dashboard to monitor local agencies and animal groups, and put together our resources list. They went to work right away to use social media to help tornado victims and their pets.”

We’ve done this type of weather watch response in the past. For example, when the deadly Oklahoma tornadoes hit in May 2013, we created a similar resource list and did outreach to local agencies on social media to see who needed help. We continually updated our resources based on our social media interactions to provide the most up-to-date information about animals during the emergency.”

It was easy for our team to make this a communications priority—it’s the fastest way for us to get involved to help the animals during a natural disaster. When an emergency hits, it can take time for local agencies to conduct search and rescue, and assess both human and animal needs. We work within the FEMA Incident Command System, and while we’re waiting for an official deployment request from the appropriate authorities, we begin reaching out on social media to share resources early with victims.”

Job well done, RedRover.
Most importantly, the RedRover team worked smart, hard and quickly to get out there in front of the weather. That’s great nonprofit disaster communications, a.k.a. right-things, right-now marketing!

How has your organization communicated around the recent storms, or other disasters? Please share your disaster communications experiences and questions here.

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Nancy Schwartz in Crisis Communications | 4 comments
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