Monday, June 19, 2006

Employees First

Last year, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita caught a lot of us with our pants around our ankles in terms of emergency communications – with employees, customers and many other audiences.

So last Friday, Mary Jo Martin of Knowledge-Based Marketing and I finished a small qualitative survey among businesspeople in our area about disaster communications planning. It's titled “Are You Ready?” Here are a couple of highlights.

Unlike a general Houston Business Journal survey
here, our smaller sample says 80% of our respondents do have a disaster communications plan in place. And 51% update their plans once a year (27% update more frequently).

Two-thirds of the respondents said they update their plans because of “weather-related changes.” That phrase is directly related to (and compared with) last year's hurricane season.

Most critical? Employees come first: 82% of the respondents said their most important audience for communications in an emergency was their workforce. When you’re responsible for the health and safety of your workers out in the field, or in your office, they are absolutely the ones you want to communicate with. (You want to make sure they and their families can communicate with you, too!)

Customers were the next most important group, 62% identified their customers as a key audience. Then the audiences fall off sharply in importance. Media, vendors and public authorities tied for third place, way down the list. Shareholders were the next lowest. And the “community” was last…not so surprising, since the topic is emergency communications by companies.

What is a bit of a shock is that 20% of the respondents do not communicate their emergency communications plans with employees. Looking at our respondent base (which is small) suggests that this 20% may be sole practitioners or small businesses. I hope so.

Last year proved the truth of the old Army adage about teaching. First, tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em. Then tell ‘em. Finally, tell ‘em that you’ve told ‘em. When in comes to protecting your most valuable assets (your workforce), it’s way better to communicate your plan over and over again. Just like the City of Houston did.

Want a free copy of the “Are You Ready?” results? It's just four pages. You can respond to this post with your edress, below. Contact Mary Jo (further below),or

Thanks to all our respondents and to Knowledge-Based Marketing.

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