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Marketing Disasters: A Recovery Plan

By: Audrey Garcia    Posted: September 7, 2017

Your company has been hit by a disaster, either a natural or a man-made one -how you respond to it could make or break your business. According to the disaster recovery firm Agility Recovery a shocking 90% of businesses will fail within 1 year if they have not resumed operations within 5 days of a disaster! While the type of devastation recently seen in Texas is rare; man-made disasters are far more common.

The best-case scenario, would be that you planned for such an event. You and your company spent time to look at possible disasters, put a marketing plan in place and can quickly implement it. However, if this was always on your “To Do” list, but never really got it off the ground, now what?

Your first plan of attack should be to take a look at your near-term plans. Look at what you already have in the pipeline scheduled to be released in the next few days and few weeks.  If you had a blog scheduled about the wonderful management of your CEO and it was just discovered that he was misappropriating company funds, you will need to cancel it. Elementary, right? However, with everything that is happening, sometimes it is easy to forget about items you scheduled months ago; as example Air BNB sent an email1 out just 2 days after the devastating floods in Texas promoting a Floating World vacation. Look at what advertising is already scheduled with national and local outlets and will you need to pull back an ad?

Make sure to stay flexible in your messaging. After making sure that there is nothing scheduled that may appear inappropriate, next look at your marketing plan as a whole.  Will the messaging still be appropriate? How will the public perceive the message? If your warehouse was devastated by a fire, your marketing plan focusing on a product that was stored in the now burned out warehouse might need to be adjusted. Can your current marketing plan shift focus to a different product or service?

Communication is key. Your customers will want to know if their orders will be shipped, far more then they want to know about a success story your company had recently.  Write a blog about the company recovery efforts, use social media to keep customers updated on current happenings – make sure to keep communicating. Let customers know how long full recovery may take and the efforts that are being made in returning to business as usual.

Communication internally is important as well.  Your employees need to be kept in the loop on what is happening, so that rumor does not become (false) fact. Make sure that there is one central point of contact that messaging is coming from. You do not want employee speculation to become front-page news! Let employees know who to contact if the media calls, how long recovery may take, and how they can help. Depending on the scope of the disaster, employees will be concerned about their jobs and future of the company; keep communication as transparent as possible – let them know that there may be issues that cannot be discussed with them, especially if litigation is involved.

Take time to look at the full scope of the disaster. Is this a long term or short-term problem? If your company has been hacked -the hack maybe a short-term issue, but what about the long-term effects? What information might have been stolen and how will you be able to deal with it. Start by making a list of all the possible ramifications, then narrow it down to the most likely issues. Using this list prepare your messaging and keep updating the message as new information becomes available.

The keys to disaster recovery are flexibility and communication. Keep your current marketing plan in place if possible, but be flexible to add, delete or update your message as needed. Make sure that the message that was on target yesterday is still on track in light of this disaster, if not update or change it wherever possible. Make sure to keep your stakeholders – customers and employees updated on events. Keep your communications as transparent as possible, do not over or under promise. Trust can be a key to your recovery, pretending as if nothing has happened, will not instill trust in you or your company, make sure to keep communications lines open and let the storm pass.

For more information on recovering from a marketing disaster, check out these posts:


  1. Email Marketing Daily, August 29, 2017. “Airbnb Sends ‘Floating World’ Email Amidst Harvey Destruction”.


Category: Marketing Planning
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