Within two hours of the earthquake, Xenophon organized a communications response team.
• Crisis response activation
• Strategic media counsel and support
• Development of collateral materials
• Proactive and reactive media relations
• Media monitoring and analysis
The key to communication in crisis support is having timely and accurate information.
Within two hours of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake striking Haiti on January 12, 2010, Xenophon Strategies organized a communications team with The Salvation Army to gather and report information about its response to its many constituents around the world. The team worked through the night establishing communications with Salvation Army personnel in Port Au Prince and with disaster responders in the U.S. By morning, the entire Salvation Army world and the general public was provided with eyewitness accounts about how the earthquake had affected The Salvation Army and the people of Haiti. A sustained incident response continued for several weeks as the organization established a supply line and delivered life-saving supplies and medical treatment to thousands of people who had been injured or displaced by the devastating earthquake. The communications effort was critical to both fostering an efficient operational mission and launching a fundraising effort that drew more than $10 million in the first two weeks.
In the first few hours, Xenophon relied on its deep experience in responding to crises with The Salvation Army, including Hurricanes Katrina and seven other major storms, to quickly set up a newsroom-style operation that could provide immediate response to any media request. Throughout the duration of the response, a team of 12 worked around-the-clock for 15 days, organizing conference calls and providing strategic guidance on internal and external communications.
Because The Salvation Army has a year-round presence in 166 countries worldwide, including 700 personnel in Haiti, it was possible to gather verifiable data from on-scene. As part of the process, Xenophon linked up with The Salvation Army’s disaster services director for Haiti so that information, photos and videos could be transmitted and shared broadly. The teams were forced to used Internet chat and video—via Skype—because traditional and cell phone service was knocked out. Still, this link to verifiable, timely information was critical and is a key to any crisis support.
Throughout the effort, Xenophon led communications calls with incident command teams in the United States that were assessing the damage, formulating a plan and, ultimately, establishing a supply line that delivered food, water, tents, other supplies and personnel directly to the point of need. These organizational calls continued daily—and multiple times daily—for more than two weeks.
Because of the international nature of the response effort, many of the Army’s units had to be brought together to coordinate and share information.
The Haiti earthquake quickly became the lead story on all major broadcast and cable television networks, as well as with international media. With phone lines in Haiti down, Xenophon operated as the central point of contact for media with The Salvation Army, coordinating interview schedules with national spokespersons in Haiti and the U.S. In the first two days, Salvation Army spokespersons were interviewed by ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, AP, USA Today, Washington Post and others.
Dozens of media flocked to The Salvation Army not only for information, but also for transportation to the response zone. Xenophon managed the volume of incoming requests to minimize the impact on the first responders, so they could focus on getting supplies to the point of need.
Throughout the effort, Xenophon proactively gathered information and packaged it for distribution internally and externally from The Salvation Army. This included development of daily messaging documents, media alerts, press releases, blog stories, Facebook and Twitter posts, among others. The agency worked with Salvation Army public information officers in the U.S. to organize volunteer and fundraising events and raise awareness nationally.
Social media was also a critical component in the response. The Salvation Army’s blog (blog.salvationarmyusa.org), drew thousands of click-thrus to stories on the birth of children and ways to donate. This translated directly into donations to the organization and was one of the key lead generators to the organization's online donation system. Furthermore, The Salvation Army’s national Facebook page (www.facebook.com/salvationarmyusa)saw 3,000 new fans and the Army’s Twitter account, (www.Twitter.com/salvationarmyus), gained 350 new followers in less than a week.
Finally, Xenophon was tasked with contacting all media to ensure that fundraising information was included on How-to-Help lists of disaster response organizations. The agency was able to ensure dozens of listings on web sites, sidebars and on-air references to aid organizations.
The volume of media coverage during a story like the Haiti earthquake makes media monitoring difficult and even more critical. The organization must have timely and accurate information about what is being published and broadcast so that it can tie-in to or respond to issues that arise.
Xenophon provided comprehensive daily updates to the entire Salvation Army that included both print and electronic media coverage from the U.S. and international sources. Through these reports, The Salvation Army was able to ensure that its personnel and supporters were aware of all the work that was being done. Xenophon was also able to track how key messages were being distributed and gain a better understanding of which storylines the media were following.
Xenophon’s work with The Salvation Army continued after the initial rescue effort transitioned to a medium- and long-term response. On a daily basis, Xenophon continued to communicate with Salvation Army representatives regarding new updates on relief efforts and human interest stories.
“The last time we worked together, Xenophon helped produce a strategic plan that ultimately transformed a bankrupt technology company with a stock option probe into a successful $2.1 billion acquisition.”