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Crisis Communications Tips

Following are a few suggestions regarding how to work effectively with the news media to publicize your destination and the status of your area after a hurricane has impacted the State of Florida.

Etiquette Guidelines
Due to the delicate nature of the tourism industry and its vulnerability to severe weather implications, it is important to be cognizant of how information you release may reflect other areas of the state. Please review the following important guidelines before you release information to visitors and the media.

  • Respect your neighbor destinations that experienced hurricane activity when releasing a statement about your area if it was unaffected. Do not compare your area or business to another one in a way that reflects unfavorably on them.
  • It is imperative that your description be a realistic portrayal of the actual conditions. It is important to be honest and open with the media so as to not jeopardize their confidence in you or your organization's credibility.
  • Withholding information on damage to present the destination in the best light can backfire. Releasing inaccurate or false information, or highlighting that your area is untouched while others were hit hard and struggling, can damage you and your business' reputation.
  • Destinations further south or north of damaged areas should be mindful of visitors who may be traveling through damaged areas on route to their destination. For example, while conditions may be fine in your area, visitors may have to travel through areas that are experiencing a gas shortage. Keep this in mind when informing visitors of Florida's situation.

Framing Your Message
Preparation, packaging and positioning are three keys to ensuring your communication efforts are on target.

  • Preparation = Success
    • In the event of a crisis, you need to be ready for action at a moment's notice.
    • You need to know everything. If you don't, you need to know where to find it.
    • Be a media expert by getting to know your media outlets.
    • Develop a distribution strategy, including how you will release information whether in the form of news releases, on websites, through social media, etc.
  • Packaging: The information must go to the right people
    • Be sure to add all important elements of your communications on your website, including detailed contact information, news releases or media statements, links to other helpful organizations and other necessary information.
  • Positioning: It's all about the messaging
    • Develop a strategy by choosing the right print, television, radio and online media that you will target.
    • Communicate the message in an appropriate and timely manner.

News Release
Whether or not your area was directly impacted by a hurricane, it can be a helpful resource to media to issue a news release following hurricane activity that outlines your specific area's condition in relation to the state as a whole and your ability to welcome visitors.

  • If directly impacted, summarize accurately how your area is recovering following the hurricane.
  • Utilize social media, including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, to post real-time information about your destination. Florida Live on VISITFLORIDA.com pulls this hyper-local information into one portal that visitors can view on a map-based feature.
  • For surrounding areas untouched by the storm, share that your area was fortunate to avoid damage and include messaging that alerts followers that all area accommodations, attractions and beaches are open and welcoming visitors. Provide visitors, who may need to travel away from impacted parts of the state to your area, with a list of tourism websites, phone numbers and other resources to assist them with making new vacation plans.
  • Remember consumers and the media do not think along county lines - they think in terms of a city and its general location in Florida. Be sure to mention city names in your messaging to help visitors acclimate.
  • You might want to include a soft pitch for another story angle unrelated to hurricanes or weather that is appropriate for that time of year.

Do not speculate during a media interview. If you do not know the answer to a question, it is best to say "I don't know" and refer the interviewer to a source that has the information, such as your local CVB, TDC, VISIT FLORIDA, FEMA, State Emergency Operations Center or the Governor's Office.