On the Ground With the Media
The Salvation Army’s massive efforts following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita required large-scale proactive communications – locally, regionally and nationally – as the organization pursued donations to support its ongoing relief work. Beginning with a comprehensive crisis communications plan that Xenophon had developed during the four Florida hurricanes in 2004 and continuing with its work on the ground before, during and after the Gulf Coast storms of 2005, Xenophon Strategies achieved remarkable and measurable results, both in media attention and fundraising.
The extraordinary attention The Salvation Army has received by virtue of its superb work and its presence in all those areas, as well as the deft handling by this agency, has made a huge difference.
Xenophon’s primary objective was to increase awareness among the national media of The Salvation Army as a first-responder and to build relationships with key journalists, so that fundraising in support of hurricane response efforts was maximized. To accomplish this plan, Xenophon sought to put senior Salvation Army officers, who were in charge of the organization’s response efforts, before the national media to talk about the group’s work throughout the region.
Previous work by Xenophon in building a crisis response plan for The Salvation Army played an important role in the program’s success. A daily call among Salvation Army public information staff and Xenophon personnel was a key component in the day-to-day planning for Katrina and Rita. Xenophon personnel, both in Washington, D.C., and on the ground in the region, joined emergency response planners to help the media understand what was happening in the affected areas, thereby steering journalists to the locations where most of the activity occurred.
Xenophon’s work with The Salvation Army also continued as the region slowly recovered. A year-long project to rebuild the coastal Mississippi town of Pass Christian, televised each morning on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” was an example of the ongoing nature of the reconstruction efforts.
The Salvation Army’s success in media attention and fundraising drew noticeable attention from PR Week. Sheila Tate of the firm Powell, Tate, was quoted in the publication stating: “I’m a national advisory board member of The Salvation Army. It’s been a fascinating experience. I also chair its public affairs and development committee. We changed agencies, too, to a small crisis shop who impressed us.”
“The extraordinary attention the Salvation Army has received by virtue of its superb work and its presence in all those areas, as well as the deft handling by this agency has made a huge difference. It hasn’t sought to raise a penny, yet it’s taken in $200 million. It’s also gotten incredible publicity. But it’s been so fast and furious that if you don’t have people on the ground down there watching every single thing – it’s not just communications, it’s everything,” she said.
“Xenophon’s vital support allowed the Coast Guard to leverage an unprecedented level of cutting-edge social media venues and technology to reach the broadest audience possible.”