The Importance of Club Communications During Crisis – What We Learned from Irma
By Robin Michael, Director of Sales, FL - Northstar
Like many others, I experienced what is now known as “Irmageddon.” I was fortunate that I live north of Naples and Hurricane Irma downgraded to a Category 2 before her arrival to Venice, FL (my hometown). However, many of my industry friends and clients were impacted both personally and professionally when Irma unleashed her wrath on our beautiful state. It is during these natural disasters that we all realize the importance of communications, whether it’s with our families who live away or with our members. It is also important to focus on the business impact during a natural disaster. Before Hurricane Irma, skies were blue, birds were chirping, and we were going about our normal, daily routines. We woke up to the news, had warm showers, and could blow dry our hair. We went to the club, and members were dining, golfing, and playing tennis. Some members were up north perhaps on Cape Cod drinking a Cape Coddah (said in Boston Accent) and discussing plans on how they will head south soon for the winter. All was good right? Yep, until “Irmageddon” hit.
All the fun came to a screeching halt! Those members who were once sipping cocktails, enjoying life - they turned into Irmageddonians! An Irmageddonian is not always someone who lived through the Hurricane; it can be someone who experienced it from afar, and has been impacted by it. This kind of Irmageddonian can actually be the more panicked out of the two. They have not personally witnessed the damage, their minds are racing, and they immediately think their house is now at the bottom of the ocean (even when they live in Central Florida). You will know when your membership has turned into 90% Irmageddonian when you experience the following:
A million emails from the away members requesting a status on the situation immediately. It does not register that you do not have access to email because you do not have the internet. Let’s face it, even if you had the internet, you have no power to get online. See you understand this, but the Irmageddonian who is in full panic mode, does not.
They expect an immediate explanation why Irma hit their beautiful community, and they want it NOW. They want to know what the club staff is doing about it? It does not matter to an Irmageddonian that you had to chainsaw your way out of your driveway to get to the club and assess the damage. It does not matter that you risked your life to get there as quickly as you could with downed trees, live wires, flooding, etc. The Irmageddonian believes you somehow should have been able to achieve this minutes following a major disaster.
An Irmageddonian will also call even though they can’t get through to the club (because again you have just gone through one of the biggest hurricanes that hit the region in ages) but they will continue to call. There will be panic, and the panic will grow because they hear NOTHING back…only CRICKETS.
The Irmageddonians are now forming a larger group of panicked members. The pitchforks out…oh they are coming…they are heading up the hill and heading straight for you…look out! Oh, the horror, the horror of it all!
Ok. Did I scare you? I was obviously overly dramatic in #4 but, if you find yourself in this situation, there are ways to avoid it in the future.
Here’s what we do to avoid 1-4 the next time if you find you have been going through exactly what I outlined above. I share this with you because not only am I an “Irmageddon” Survivor but I’ve been helping my clubs through it as well.
In my 17 years providing member communication and club management solutions, I’ve held a few hands through a few hurricanes and found the following is the recipe for success:
Top 5 Ways To Communicate With Your Membership During A Hurricane:
Engage your Technology Partner: Before the Hurricane, engage your technology provider (the company who provides you with the ability to email and/or website hosting). You share with them that you will need a “go to” person that you can utilize to get the message out to your membership.
Prepare Communications: Have a draft ready for what you need to communicate (yes you may be writing it by candlelight during the storm but get it done). This communication should be a reassurance to the membership that you and your staff are safe and will be assessing the situation. Set a reasonable expectation on when the membership can expect another status from you.
Club Website – Any communication that goes out via email should be posted on the club website (again rely on your technology provider to do this on your behalf).
Member App – If the club has a member app you can send push notifications via the App as another way to keep members informed. Anyone with access to the app (your technology provider) can do this on your behalf if you do not have internet access.
Social Media – If you use FB, Twitter, Instagram, etc. update with all the same information. Again, utilize a third party for this method. If you do not have these communication vehicles, this is a wonderful opportunity to create a twitter or facebook account, just to keep members informed.
I hope we don’t ever have to experience another “Irmageddon”, but if we do, I hope some of this information helps you to prepare for the next time!