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Case Study

Weathering the Storm for All of Our Clients


Hurricane Irma

Beach Family

Planned. Prepared. Proactive.


Preparation and communication are essential when a disaster, especially a natural disaster, strikes a destination. Luckily for our clients, Aqua excels at emergency preparedness and communication before, during, and after a disaster strikes. Not only can Aqua guide a client through any emergency, directing them on how to respond effectively through an entire range of communications options, but we’ve proven that we can lead several different clients through a crisis all at once with outstanding efficiency. In 2017, this was put to the test when Hurricane Irma posed a threat to the state of Florida and all of Aqua’s clients located in the region.

Marketing Emergency


Aqua provides marketing services for a variety of clients in different industries. However, our most significant concentration is in the destination marketing industry. As such, clients rely on Aqua to drive area visitation to their destinations. So, when an emergency or natural disaster threatens one of our clients, Aqua’s primary objective is to limit the situation’s negative impact on visitation as much as possible. And the best way to do that is by influencing the public’s perception regarding the incident. If a destination is affected, we work to be sure the public accurately understands the affected area’s actual status. Afterward, we will work to rebuild the visitation quickly. And since it’s all about affecting perception, many times, a destination isn’t affected, but the public’s perception still needs to be addressed or countered.

The primary focus lies in safeguarding our clients’ visitation economies, ensuring we manage crisis perceptions to their advantage. When Hurricane Irma swept through Florida, accurately discerning the impact on our Florida-based clients was paramount.

Strategies


How do you prepare for unforeseen circumstances? Given that disasters of all types can unexpectedly occur, Aqua formulates comprehensive Crisis Plans for each client, which detail responses and strategies for virtually any conceivable event. These plans encompass a range of tactics for addressing situations before, during, and after a crisis, categorized as General Actions, In-Region Communications/Actions, and External Communications/Actions.

Having a Crisis Plan on hand saves critical time and resources. It provides a solid action plan that every executive, communications, and operations team member can immediately implement during a crisis.

Because speed is critical, Aqua works with clients to ensure they already have press release templates, pre-approved advertising messaging, radio and TV spots, and budgets to respond to any crisis, regardless of whether an emergency impacts the destination. Aqua prepares “All Clear” and “Hit” messages for hurricanes well before hurricane season begins so that advertising and PR can respond as soon as possible.

Bradenton Emergency Guide

The Hurricane Hits


The days leading up to Irma’s eventual landfall were a rollercoaster of anxiety and relief. Reports changed by the hour predicting the storm’s path. Before the storm’s impending arrival, media campaigns were suspended to avoid displaying sunny beach advertisements while news channels reported extensive devastation. Aqua went the extra mile by evacuating its St. Petersburg offices one day before the storm hit. It continued remote operations for several days afterward, with some staff working from home even without power, ensuring uninterrupted service for clients. Ultimately, the impact on Aqua’s clients varied from minor damage to no effect.

However, the story spread by news outlets was that Hurricane Irma had ravaged Florida. Potential travelers living thousands of miles away were under the false assumption the entire state was in disarray. None of Aqua’s clients experienced severe impacts, with some reporting clear skies throughout the incident. Aqua closely monitored news and social media sources to assess the information being disseminated and the public’s perceptions surrounding the event.

The pre-made press releases and creative ensured the aftermath story was one of clear skies and clean beaches when applicable. For those destinations impacted by the storm, press releases went to pre-selected media outlets (per the Crisis Plan) to give an accurate account of the damage and an estimated timeframe for recovery. Lastly, even though some clients were fortunate to be spared from the storm’s impact, they generously hosted emergency response teams and displaced residents from neighboring communities affected by the hurricane. Their press releases and creative endeavors resonated with a spirit of compassion and community support.

Results


Aqua effectively coordinated with all its clients, each experiencing different levels of impact from the storm throughout the process. These efforts encompassed communicating evacuation orders before the storm, delivering real-time updates to each client through their respective social channels during the storm, evaluating the resulting damage (or lack thereof) after the storm, and taking responsive actions as needed. All clients experienced a return to record-breaking tourism numbers, albeit at varying paces, depending on the storm’s proximity to their destinations. This success story underscores the essential value of a meticulously crafted Crisis Plan.

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