Two weeks ago, as Hurricane Harvey’s floodwaters rose throughout greater Houston, corporate communications executives from around the country gathered on a conference call to discuss the most effective approaches to responding to the unfolding natural disaster and its aftermath. Convened by the Arthur W. Page Society, leaders from Sprint, Chevron, AFLAC and more compared notes and shared insights so that all involved could benefit from the collective wisdom and experience of fellow corporate communicators.
As the head of communications for Noble Energy, an independent energy exploration and production company headquartered in Houston, this exercise was especially relevant. And combined with my involvement at Shell Oil Company on the frontlines of its response to Hurricane Katrina, my professional experience is (unfortunately) especially deep when it comes to natural disaster response. With the southern U.S. still recovering from Harvey and Irma, I offer the following guidelines for any business that is grappling with how to efficiently and effectively respond to a major disaster.
In the wake of Harvey, Noble Energy established an Employee Disaster Relief Plan that provides cash grants to individual employees so they can address their specific near-term needs. We also expanded our matching gift program so that employee donations to causes they care about can have a greater impact.
Noble Energy’s Global Day of Caring took place just days after Hurricane Harvey hit, and our company-wide volunteer efforts prioritized long-standing community partners and real-time needs. Nearly 1,000 employees sorted and distributed donations to shelters, provided assistance to a major food bank, and delivered meals and hygiene kits to shelters.
Overall, there is no precise roadmap for managing these tragic and complex disasters. But if, as a company, you do the right thing for the right reasons, the benefits to people, community, and business will naturally follow.