Is your PR liferaft ready to launch?

There’s always something good that comes out of every experience. Good times become good memories. Bad times become good lessons. You can never lose; you only grow from life - Ryan Ferreras

To dayglo or not to dayglo? That is the question….is it nobler in the eyes of the public to be seen standing knee-deep in a puddle, dressed in dog-walking jeans and a fleece pointing at something in a masterful way, or to do an impression of the Tango man while promising the earth - which incidentally isn’t available as it’s under a couple of fathoms of water. 

DailySunday Politics @daily_politics Feb 11 MPs in flood zones? “Great PR exercise, but not sure that we do very much by donning our wellies and going out into the water” @JohnHowellMP

While the floods appear to have the alchemistic property of fanning political flames better than high octane petrol, there are without doubt enough PR opportunities flowing from them to fill Noah’s Ark; but how to use them best? Tread with a little care, and stay mindful of the real suffering faced by people whose lives are full to the rafters with cold brown mucky water. But speaking from a PR point of view – use them!

Any business or organisation has the potential to consider being ready to offer some contribution to relieving a crisis, and by doing so to make a genuine difference and simultaneously enhancing their own image, credibility and onward bottom-line prospects. So, what might you think about packing into your PR life-raft emergency toolkit, ready for use when the siren sounds…?

There are many examples of companies, charities and individuals that have successfully done just this. 


  • HSBC has shown their support to those affected by floods in a statement on their website. Antonio Simoes, Head of HSBC, was quoted; “We understand the huge strain the floods are placing on our business and personal customers in affected areas and we want to make sure we are providing the support that they need now and in the future….” This statement alone says a lot about the business; “we care, we are thinking about you, we want to help, we are not just a faceless bank….” #PRwin
  • JCB have lent £750,000 of machinery to flood disaster zones. Four of its high-speed, high ground clearance tractors equipped with trailers and two backhoe loaders have been used in the worst affected areas. The JCB backhoe has been playing a vital role in shoring up flood defences and eventually in clearing debris left by the floodwaters. They successfully utilised the PR in the donation by regular tweets that were re-tweeted and mentioned over and over again and appearing in logo-emblazoned shirts on the local and national news. #PRwin
  • Barugh and District Ploughing Association and Cawthorne Young Farmers Club also rallied the troops whilst also spreading the word on Twitter via photos of their activity – again re-tweeted hundreds of times (also featuring JCB) #PRwin
  • One couple, ‘The Martins’, got in touch with supermarket giant Tesco to provide transport for hay bales being donated by farmers all over the country to the Somerset levels. They did it free of charge and Tesco continue to provide staff, vehicles and support. #PRwin
  • Jack Sprats Café in Dawlish offered help to flood victims. Their Facebook page read; “Our thoughts go to everyone affected by the appalling weather in Dawlish last night. All local people who have had to leave their homes can get free hot drinks, homemade soup and crusty bread at Jack Sprat’s tomorrow (10am - 3pm….” Whilst this is massively a community and charity led endeavour, the PR angle was rapidly picked up by TV and print media. Not only are they being regularly featured, but they are also providing sustenance and care to a lot of happily paying journalists. Super #PRwin


  • Ducky Tours in London offered their help too. After all, where there’s water there’s one lucky duck. In this case, there’s a whole flock of them. The amphibious tourist Duck cruisers have been helping to transport people from flooded homes in the Somerset Levels and the Windsor Duck Tour Cruise company has been working hard in Surrey too.  However, when the company could have done with some very good publicity – where was it? A couple of incidental tweets from onlookers is pretty much all they got. Following on from their ‘Duck on Fire’ disaster in September you’d think that the need to capitalise on the opportunity would be paramount. Good effort, but #PRfail
  • Whilst Animal Aid have expressed serious concern over the lack of reporting on the impact of the on-going floods on farmed animals across the UK, in a statement on their website – a chance for them to raise the profile of their cause, I have not (correct me if I am wrong) seen them provide comment and talking heads to any media coverage. Now is the time to use that voice! Wonderful charity #PRfail


Emergency PR toolkits are all about ‘Being Prepared’

1.    Launch a support campaign.  #openforbusiness was started by @SouthWestUK and is gaining rapid promotion via Twitter and Instagram in particular, drawing in businesses and repeating their contribution. It also had mentions on BBC TV news as a story in its own right. WE are open for business — that was the loud and clear message from South Devon’s tourism industry in the wake of the storms. Find a voice and use this hashtag.

2.    Branding. If you DO contribute, is your identity as a business visible (clothing, vehicles, banners) whether directly to camera, in the background, or to those who you assist? Let the community know that YOU are there for them.

3.    Who are you? Are you in a position to be a talking head, because of your local or business knowledge or expertise? Media are always looking for people to talk or quote – could you? Get ready, get media trained, have your messages ready to pull out when the need arises.

4. None of this can happen unless you sit down and think about what YOU could add to the mix IF the opportunity / need arise. Do the groundwork, make contacts, develop a profile, research your local council plans and contacts, play a part in your community. A full-scale PR plan is needed for every business, from HSBC to a café in Dawlish. And of course – making the most of the silver lining is so much easier if you maintain a good on-going relationship with a professional in PR – an angel in wellies, watching from the wings!


Image Credits: SXC Image ID: 1432613