Strategic Communications: What does email have to do with downed power lines?

Josh Shultz

Category: Strategy


If you’re in the DC/MD/VA region like we are, you likely experienced the storm and power outages that came with it this weekend. In fact, a number of NJI staffers are still without power, but luckily, our office is up and running.

So, what does a storm have to do with branding and strategic communications?

People tend to think of emergency communication in times of company blunders and national emergencies, such as the 2010 BP oil spill and the bevy of corporate faux pas that followed. Emergency communications are employed most frequently during local weather events. One of the best examples of effective emergency communications I’ve seen was GEICO’s email this weekend, in response to the damage caused by the storms across the region.

While the rest of my inbox was filled with clutter and campaign solicitations, GEICO’s email provided beneficial information and preempted the need for me to seek it out on my own. The email – and the strategy behind it – is a great example of a branded response to an emergency. It serves as a model for any service provider in a time of crisis.

Immediately following the storm, GEICO did several things correctly.

First, it used the targeted subject line: “A message to our Virginia policy holders.” This concise subject leaves no doubt in the reader’s mind as to why they received the email. It shows how companies can effectively use audience segmentation to deliver the most beneficial communications.

Second, it added a bit of brand identity by conveying compassion in the first sentence: “We hope you and your family are safe and sound following the severe weather in your area yesterday.” All of the insurance-speak and pertinent information comes second. This is exactly what builds consumers’ loyalty and faith in a brand. GEICO preempts complaints and confusion by taking advantage of the opportunity to grab its audience’s attention, not only giving them what they want, but also showing their brand’s personality when an emergency arises.

Finally, the email is short and to the point. It doesn’t clog up precious reading time, when, in an emergency like we all experienced this weekend, my time would be better spent checking that my car wasn’t under a fallen tree branch.

GEICO certainly follows the Ten Steps for Building A Brand Online that we published last week. The tone, compassion, and content of the email made it an effective use of branded communication, and it surely made an impact during the hazardous events of this past weekend.

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