Crisis Communications through Wildfires and Floods
We cannot overstate the importance of Crisis Communications in building a relationship with residents, and other potential stakeholders, through an emergent situation. While it's one thing for us to outline the positive impact that effective Crisis Communications can have on a community, it's another thing for those words to come from someone we've worked with through major crises.
It's always humbling when we're given a testimonial from a client with whom we've worked in any capacity — but this one hit a bit differently.
In June 2023, we were engaged by the Town of Edson to support their Crisis Communications efforts through a wildfire that led to a full evacuation of the Town's 8,500 residents, while further working with their neighbours at Yellowhead County to ensure consistent messaging intermunicipally. Two days after that project ended, we were contacted by the Town once again, asking us for additional Crisis Communications support as the community was experiencing significant flooding, following a 1-in-50 year storm. (Their mayor joked, at one point, that the natural next step would be an alien invasion. The Town seriously couldn't catch a break.)
This testimonial was posted by Edson CAO Christine Beveridge on LinkedIn — the original post for which can be seen here. The raw text from the post is also included below:
Posted by CAO Beveridge on July 19, 2023:
It’s known that the Edson region experienced a few emergencies this spring, specifically two evacuations due to wildfires and a flood in a matter of less than 12 weeks.
I want to start to share what lessons I have learned throughout this challenging experience with the purpose of helping others prepare for when an emergency hits their community.
The first is about communication. In my view, this is one of the most essential parts of my role during these emergency situations.
I cannot stress enough how grateful I am for the expertise and guidance provided by Catalyst Communications during our recent emergency situation(s) to support our internal communications professional. When our organization faced sudden and highly sensitive crisis’, we felt a bit overwhelmed about how to effectively communicate with our residents, businesses, and the media. We have a highly skilled internal Communications professional on staff, but we wanted to offer more support to this key staff member and partnered with a crisis communications specialist to assist with this.
Ben Proulx’s calm demeanor and quick understanding of our situations reassured us that we were in capable hands. With his knowledge and experience in navigating delicate and challenging situations enabled us to effectively manage the crisis with minimal negative impact on the Town’s reputation.
We were consistent, timely, and clear with our messaging about how the emergencies were evolving. We consistently used daily live video updates which were followed by social media posts (Facebook & Twitter) to reiterate key messages. Our key messages were then broken down into separate posts to ensure clarity. The media often used our lives updates for their main source of info.
The support throughout all stages of the crisis was invaluable. From assessing the situation, identifying key messages, and drafting impactful statements, and monitoring public sentiment, Ben exhibited exceptional professionalism and expertise. He integrated seamlessly with the team. The guidance offered helped us maintain transparency, credibility, and open lines of communication with our residents and businesses that were evacuated from our community.
In the end, with our highly skilled internal communication professional, Steve Bethge and Ben we were able to navigate the stormy waters of our emergency situations with poise and resilience. Our residents and businesses appreciated our transparency and handling of emergencies. I personally felt I had the support and key messages I needed to be as successful as possible given the ever-changing high-pressure situations.
The peace of mind, expert guidance, and positive outcomes that Catalyst Communications brought to the table was priceless. Don't hesitate to seek their assistance – it can make all the difference in a crisis.
Thank you to CAO Beveridge for the kind words. In response, we would like to add that the Town was wonderful to work with — a truly competent team looking to serve their community to the absolute best of their ability at all times. It was a true pleasure being able to work with CAO Beveridge, Communications Director Steve Bethge, and all others at the Town on a continuous basis throughout these back-to-back crises.