The tornados that ripped through several American states and devastating several communities is another warning that really bad things can happen unexpectedly to good places. The lesson is that all places need to have a crisis communications plan that is tightly integrated into the city’s crisis management plan. How well this is done can influence how quickly the place can recover from the crisis and reinstate the economic momentum of the city.
A case in point is Branson MO which was struck by a tornado last week that damaged about four dozen commercial structures including six of the town's 50 theaters and 22 of the 200 hotels and motels. This happened right at the start of Branson’s busy tourist season. Fortunately, Branson CVB and the local tourism industry seem to be responding fast in an effort to minimize the tourism impacts of the tornado.
My colleague Peggy Bendel, author of the forthcoming book “It's a Crisis! NOW What?" observes, “At a time like this, having a crisis communications plan in place helps destination marketers move swiftly to gather accurate information, and get the word out to their various publics: visitors, staff, marketing partners and the media. Branson's doing a great job: their home page at ExploreBranson.com retains its brand imagery, and highlights special events, while featuring a half-page with links to current details about the February 29th storm. Many destinations might be tempted to ignore the "bad news" and keep their site as is, but with a national story such as a damaging tornado, that simply makes you appear clueless and guarantees people will go elsewhere for credible information.”
Simply because you have completed a brand strategy and marketing plan does not mean that you have secured the best possible future for your destination. You also need a constantly updated crisis communications strategy, because bad things do happen to good places!